Join us to participate in the upcoming 2019 City:One Challenge. 

Slow Sunday

College without a Car

Photo of Emily Lawson
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My first couple years at Calvin college I lived on campus. Because of this I didn't have a Car with me. This meant I relied on friends, bikes, and the bus to get places throughout the year. It turns out Grand rapids was not designed well for the carless. Around calvin, there a very few sidewalks. In order to get to woodland mall riding your bike for instance, you had to detour through 2 parking lots when the sidewalk just simply ended. Or church on Sunday. Many churches in the area know the lack of transportation during the weekend (the time when most college students can go off campus) and send vans to pick kids up from campus. In order to get my church from school (a distance of 4 mi) it would take me over an hour and a half on a Sunday morning, due to the lack of routes and reduced bus numbers. Come on y'all, Michigan gets cold! We need more buses.


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Photo of Idrees Mutahr

Hi Emily! I'm one of the facilitators on this challenge, your multi-modal experience moving around Grand Rapids is really interesting, can you expand on what factors influenced whether you rode the bus or your bike? The church van for campuses also seems really interesting, how was your experience with that service?

Photo of Emily Lawson

Hey Idrees. I feel like most the time the decision comes down to weather and time. Unless the bus route is direct, with no transfers, it was usually faster to ride my bike. However there are some places I did not feel safe riding (i.e. Beltline to Woodland Mall, 28th St, etc.) or it was too cold outside (I'm not into the snow tires or riding on ice).
The church vans wasn't a Grand Rapids service, it was more the churches that knew transportation around GR was a problem provided a temporary solution. Overall this was fine, but it limits your options and can be difficult to time around (since you are only given one option of when to leave and return).

Photo of Idrees Mutahr

Thanks for the response Emily, really good breakdown of what decisions went into choosing a mode of travel. It also seems like the van service was too specific in timing and use to really impact your travel.

Photo of DaiLynn Dietz

I feel your pain, Emily. I went to GVSU out in Allendale and didn't have a car until my last year. The buses to downtown ran super infrequently on the weekends, like once per 50 minutes or even an hour and a half, so I felt trapped on campus. I often had to bite the bullet and pay 15 dollars for an uber to the city, and another 15 dollar back, which is quite a lot when you're a student.