Car-free College Living


Grand Avenue sidewalk.

While it is very cool to have a car, a disadvantage of owning a car might be the fact that you will have to drive a lot and in occasions when you don’t want to. A friend of mine in college recently bought his own car and since the news inevitably spread, many people started asking him favors to drive them places whenever they need him to. While he normally gladly drives his friends around, some asking do not even know him that well and at the end of the day, he does not have all the time in the world. This often puts him in bothersome and awkward situations. Furthermore, owning a car could mean that you might always have to be the sober designated driver whenever you go out, and be very prone to drunk-driving. With transportation options such as bicycles, buses, light rails, rentals and Taxis, I believe that college students in the Twin Cities such as myself can find perfect alternatives of cars here for almost every occasion.

First of all, most of the colleges here in the Twin Cities (aside from the U of M) are relatively small in size and designed so that the entire campus is within walking distance. Currently living on campus, I can complete all of my daily routines on foot, whether it be going to class in different buildings, the library, the cafeteria, or the sports center. Of course this would change if I decide to move into a house off campus once I become an upperclassman, as many of whom do. While this is common, it is noteworthy to mention that many upperclassmen still decide to remain living in the dorms because of how convenient it is to live on campus. However, even if I lived off campus, I still wouldn’t need a car because most of the students are able to find housing in the vicinity of their college: when off campus parties happen on the weekends, you always see students walking to the houses and nobody is driving. Also, sometimes driving to class might be more cumbersome as the parking lots could be either full or located far away from the building one is trying to get to.

Many might argue that while cars are not essential for a college student’s everyday life, it can be useful for many other special occasions. For the rare occasions that would require a car such as road trips during spring break, the facility services of the college provides van rentals. When I simply get sick of my school’s cafeteria and want to go out to a nearby place for lunch or dinner on the weekends either by myself or with a small number of friends, I can either walk, bike or take public transportation. Most of the times when college students drive their cars is to go somewhere further with a larger group of friends such as to downtown, the mall or a special event. However, in this situation, an ordinary student-owned car is usually not enough to take everyone. Even if somehow the rare occasion presents itself where there are two people from the group who own a car, the group would be forced to split up during the trip.

The obvious alternative in these kinds of situation, public transportation, is more time consuming and less convenient, but for me it makes the trip more fun and meaningful. By taking public transportation, we can explore the city as we are on our way, often discovering places that we would never have known about if we simply drove straight to the destination. Furthermore, because we have to figure out together what bus to take and where to get off and transfer, not only do we get to know our neighborhood better, but also get to bond and hang out through our journey by working together. We are also prone to fun surprises, unexpected encounters and spontaneous adventures. From my own experience so far, taking public transportation with a large group of friends is definitely more fun than taking an automobile for sure.

In summary, aside from the classic concerns about cars such as pollution, parking and financial burden, especially relevant for college students, it is also more socially undesirable to own one of them instead of enjoying the perks of their perfect alternatives that can be found in the Twin Cities. As a freshman at Macalester College who has never lived in the US before, I have already found enough reasons to dismiss the idea of buying a car. Therefore, I would also like to encourage all other college students, especially the ones who live in the Twin Cities and who can identify with my experiences, to reconsider their incentives to own a car.

Written by Isaac Liu. Isaac is a Macalester College student, class of 2019

Macalester Student Perspectives

About Macalester Student Perspectives

Contributing writers to this column were college students enrolled at Macalester College in Saint Paul. These posts were part of classes in the Environmental Studies, Geography, and Urban Studies Programs.