It’s no secret that the University of Connecticut, despite being the largest public university in the state, is not located where very many people live. Sure, UConn does have regional campuses in Hartford, Stamford and Waterbury, all of which are considerable population centers. But for Storrs, the heart of this university which began as an agricultural college, it would be unwarranted to compare it to universities like the University of Hartford or Yale, since they were built in population centers.
Despite the historical justification for its relative inaccessibility owing to it formerly having been an agricultural college, the fact is that many UConn students do not have cars of their own. The development of Storrs Center has allowed for some amenities to flow into campus, but what happens when you want to get fast food, need to go to a Wal-Mart, or want to visit a new park? Unless you pay a substantial fee for an Uber, have a particularly generous friend, or desperately want to take a four-hour walk, the answer is that you are going to have to take the bus.
Luckily for us here at UConn, we do have buses to leave campus… Right?
Well, if you’re a determined HuskyGO user, the furthest away you’ll reach is UConn’s Depot Campus on the aptly named Depot Line. There are a couple parks around there, so the line may be of some use, but its limited service (8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays only, according to its website), means that you’ll need to look for an alternative escape if your free time is limited to weekends.
The local transit authority, the Windham Region Transit District (WRTD) does offer buses north to Four Corners – an unimpressive commercial area at the junction of Routes 44 and 195 – and south to Willimantic, both on Route 674. Surely, Willimantic is the urban connection we need! It’s the closest semi-urban area to UConn, so you would think that the service would be comprehensive, especially since WRTD works directly with HuskyGO.
One would assume that, but unfortunately, there are no buses on Sundays, so you’d better be free on Saturday if you need anything. If you want to get to the center of Willimantic and not to the largely empty East Brook Mall, there are only nine departures per day, according to WRTD’s website. Nine may seem like a lot, but that’s less than one departure every hour-and-a-half during the time the route runs. Getting to Willimantic is possible for the average student, but it’s an uncomfortably tedious trip to plan for what should be a simple location to reach.
The only other option to leave campus by public transport is using CTtransit’s Route 913. The route offers between 11 and 22 departures depending on the day, per CTtransit, providing access to Hartford, Buckland Hills Mall, as well as to the towns of Tolland and Vernon. This route is by far the most useful leaving UConn, since it does give access to urban, commercial and less populated areas.
The problem with CTtransit’s offer is the time it takes to travel on the route. Having to spend an hour on the bus to get to Hartford is not too terrible of a commitment, but the travel does add up. Spending two hours to get some Puerto Rican food or go on a merry-go-round makes the idea of traveling beyond campus a chore.
I do appreciate the ability to journey off-campus, but what UConn needs are more routes connecting campus to nearby towns, as well as far more frequent service to Willimantic. And towns like Chaplin, Coventry, and Willington are about as far from UConn as Willimantic, yet they are currently inaccessible by public transport.
It is true that these towns are neither Hartfords nor New Havens. However, having the abilities to travel at one’s own will and to purchase necessities when needed are liberating aspects of college life which are necessary in exposing oneself to life in the “real world.”
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who provides these services, so long as UConn students without cars can be freed from the unintended isolation of restrictive transportation.