"Go where no one else would go": Transportation at Mt. Holyoke

By Suleidys Tellez on March 22, 2013
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The few transportation options at Mt. Holyoke. Photo by author.

For visitors of the college, “Go where no one else would go” is an inspirational quote. For residents however, this phrase has turned into a “MoHo” curse for most students. Of course in the 1800′s, Mary Lyon meant it as encouragement for women. But times have changed.  Today, car-less students living on campus are stuck with the literal meaning. They will go where no one else would go, because they can go nowhere.

I came across Mt. Holyoke before graduating from Miami Dade College. It is a good school, as good as Stanford or Georgetown. Good science program? Check. Good English program, researching opportunities, and placement after graduation? Check.  Affordable? Not so checked, but oh well, higher education is expensive anywhere. Accessibility? I was told it was checked. Certainly, the school’s website tells prospective students “getting here by air, car, train or bus is easy.” But when I started living on campus, it felt more like I was living in a giant hamster cage.

If you are a student researching a university, I’m sure you have been told to compare the schools’ reviews. Well, Mount Holyoke has very good reviews: Best Value College, best classroom experience, and on the top ten list of most beautiful college campuses. For outsiders, this college may seem like the biggest prize in a poker game. The school has everything a student driven to succeed would want, including being forced to do their homework because they are not able to escape.

Let’s take a look at how “easy” it is to get here:

The nearest airport is 30 minutes away. Not so close, but also not so far. In a car, that is. There are 2500 students in this college, only 500 of them have registered cars, and therefore, will be able to make it to the airport at whim. The rest of the students, the unfortunate majority, will have to find transportation. They can either take an outrageous $70 taxi drive or beg their friends with cars to take them. There used to be an airport van ride that took students to the airport for a reasonable price, but it got cancelled due to school policies that nobody understands.

The nearest city is eleven minutes away. In a car, that is. If a student wanted to go get deodorant they would have to plan to be on a bus between two hours to half a day, depending on the time of the year. This may not seem like a big deal. After all, who cares if you have to be patient to get your supplies? Well…reality check. We are not living in the 1800s anymore. Back then, you could get on a chariot and ride for an entire day to get milk and your schedule would not be affected. Things were slower, but we are living in a fast paced society now. We have exams, papers, readings, internships, independent studies, job applications, networking, extra credit opportunities, oh and we also have to find time to eat, do laundry and shower. Who has time to spend five hours on and off the bus just to get deodorant?

To make the situation a little better, the school has provided its students with mall trip vans, but only twice a week, so if you can’t because you have something else scheduled, oh well, just your luck. The school has also made a deal with the car company ZIPCAR, which was a great relief for some of us, because now we can get to our doctor’s appointments after class. The problem is that there are 2000 car-less students and only two Zip cars. The 1000:1 ratio has turned booking into a nightmare you must prepare for far in advance. We’re all competing for a chance to escape the “MoHo bubble.” May the games begin!

The nearest train station is in the city of Springfield, twelve miles away, and only 20 minutes in a car. But there is no direct bus route that can take a car-less student there. She would have to transfer between three different bus routes and plan ahead because the trip to the train station will last a minimum of two hours depending on the day.

The New England’s public bus system (PVTA) is anything but effective. There are two routes—the 38 and the 39—that take students from Mount Holyoke College into the cities of Northampton and Amherst. Neither of these routes takes students to the towns directly all year round. So the buses take double and sometimes triple the time that would normally take a car.  One of my best friends is from New York City, and she takes the Peter Pan Bus to go home sometimes. New York is two hours away from this college in a car, but it takes my friend six hours to go home on the bus.

To top it all, there are 440 international students on campus. A great deal of them cannot afford to go back to their countries of origin during school vacations. Thankfully, Mount Holyoke allows them to stay for a “small” fee of $100. But the fee does not cover transportation, or food. They are “helped” by some student organizations that sponsor mall trips twice a week, because the PVTA does not run during the breaks, and nobody will tell us why. As beautiful as Mount Holyoke may be during the breaks, I would not want to stay for four months on campus if my only chance for “fun” is to go buy groceries.

One of the complaints about single sex education is that it does not prepare its students for the “outside world” because they are living in a virtual bubble. Mount Holyoke has been a target of these criticisms. It is true; our students do live in a bubble. But not because this is a single sex school, but because getting out of here is impossible.

“Go where no one else would go” does not hold the same meaning it did when Mary Lyon said it. Back then, it meant achieving goals and breaking sexist boundaries. Unless you buy yourself a car, or push SGA to find a better transportation system, today, it means you are stuck in a perfect school with no way out.

 

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As a journalism student, it is my goal to polish my writing in different types of media. I am interested in learning how to write opinion, profiles, news and investigative pieces didactically to create social conversation. I have vast experience writing for media outlets, mostly in the local sphere. I am currently seeking a summer internship opportunity or a writing position that will allow me to gain professional experience in the news business. I intend to apply my knowledge on inequality issues and writing skills, to provide a refreshing perspective that will hopefully engage my readers and make them thirst for news.

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