There are many obvious problems with the architecture, planning and public transportation here in Storrs. However, to a certain extent the university has limited car traffic and this is a tremendous advantage for everyone on campus.
Many buildings in Storrs are, unlike in traffic-congested cities, not adjacent to parking lots and only accessible by foot. Storrs, Mansfield, Glenbrook, Gilbert and Hillside roads form a sort of square inside which are most academic buildings and outside of which are most dorms. This road network is mostly the only place for private transportation on campus and as a result we commute to classes without much of the inconvenience and safety issues associated with high traffic. In general, there is low vehicle air pollution and the university’s carbon footprint is substantially lower prioritizing walking and public transport.
It is important to distinguish between private cars and industrial vehicles. If a business requires transportation of goods or labor which cannot be done through public transport this must be accommodated with unique licenses. Removing private cars from public spaces is not about immediately eliminating cars, it is about prioritizing important traffic, the most important of which being pedestrian. Frequently we see vehicles on Fairfield Way. These are not privately owned but operating for the university, performing maintenance, bringing materials to various buildings, shuttling students and faculty.
Certain roads in Storrs are public spaces where students socialize, relax, demonstrate, perform and create culture. These are impossibilities when private cars dominate. The success of UConn’s car policy is that many roads still allow few key vehicles while simultaneously being public spaces existing for the benefit of pedestrians. This model is not only a great boon to Storrs but is applicable to urban environments anywhere.
The United States enjoys a suburban culture, as a result of massive auto-industry lobbying (https://www.ft.com/content/c9add7c4-48aa-11e3-8237-00144feabdc0) and racism (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-federal-government-intentionally-racially-segregated-american-cities-180963494/) amongst other forms of violence. This means that many commute long distances from suburban homes to urban centers for work, constituting a large portion of traffic in urban areas. Until this mindless social organization is remedied, any urban transportation policy needs to consider suburban workers as well.
These workers can be helped away from expensive private transport through busses and trains from suburbs and extensive parking on the outskirts of urban public transportation networks. Perhaps robust public housing could allow workers to live near their employment? A truly radical idea. These solutions are all applicable in Storrs. Commuter students here suffer greatly as a result of limited and expensive parking, housing and public transportation to and from campus. All of these things could be easily remedied by the administration, but commuters are a marginalized population like many others in the student body.
There are massive problems with public transportation in many American cities (https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/11/best-transit-american-cities-bus-rail-subway-service/576739/). It is expensive, unavailable, inefficient, slow and frequently inaccessible. This doesn’t mean that millions of urban Americans do not travel, work and survive under these conditions. Removing private cars from cities is not punishment for those who currently own cars, because they will be brought to the same playing field as the vast majority of urban workers. Perhaps without private cars they will be forced to invest rather than divest (https://www.businessinsider.com/privatize-the-new-york-city-subway-2017-6) themselves in the improvement of these vital public transportation systems.
When we examine the function of private traffic in urban areas, it is to service those who cannot afford housing in the city and those who can afford the convenience of private cars. Both parties and the community at large suffer as a result of our reliance on expensive, environmentally harmful and inefficient private transportation. Everyone should be able to depend upon strong public transportation to commute, work and live. Cars simply have no place in the equation.
Harrison Raskin is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.