By Veronica Scott Green
For Unwind magazine
Despite the fact that commuting regularly comes with hardships, the University of Maryland’s commuter population has increased in the past year. According to the Department of Transportations’ 2015 to 2016 report, a staggering 3,500,000 people ride the University of Maryland shuttle. This number has gone up six percent since 2015. This shows that the number of students accessing the metro station, bus stations and apartment complexes via the shuttle system has increased.
Although it requires more planning and responsibility, students living close enough to campus to take the shuttle can save time and gas money, compared to their driving counterparts.
One commuter, Marta Curiel, prefers to take the shuttle and refers to the university parking system as a “headache.”
Although there are over 18,000 parking spaces in the university parking lots, the transportation department’s reports show that the number of permits bought has decreased in the past year. According to the DOTS, permits can cost anywhere from $133 to $714 depending on your status as either an on-campus resident, commuter or satellite resident–one who lives in a nearby apartment complex. This is a financial hardship on students, which can prompt them to move closer to campus to take the shuttle.
According to this university’s admissions site, meal plans and rooming have a combined cost of $12,000 per semester. If a student is able to rent for $500 a month, then they would spend $2,000 a semester on rent. If the student maintains a cost of groceries at $400 a month, then their total cost for a semester would be $1,600. This would result in a total of about $3,600 spent for one semester. Thus the cost of living off campus is more financially sustainable than living on campus if the students keep their finances below $950 a month.
Moving off campus can also have a social cost, especially for first year transfer students like Curiel.
“I feel like if I had been staying on campus, I would have been able to learn the campus better than going to classes and leaving when I’m done,” Curiel said. “It would have been nice to have a little time to explore here and there.”
Curiel also stated that she needed to put extra effort into joining and getting involved in clubs on campus.
As far as internships are concerned, the two easiest modes of transportation into DC, where many students intern, are the bus and metro system.
While the metro system is often faster, neither option is particularly reliable. The metro was notorious for having issues on the red line this summer, and a common complaint with the bus system is the unreliability of the schedule.
Taking the bus is by far the least expensive option; the tickets cost as little as $1.75 with a SmarTrip card, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s website. In order to get this low fare, students should take a regular route rather than the express.
According to Kela Seals, who commuted to an internship over the summer, the free two-hour parking in DuPont is a great asset to utilize. She also reported that driving and taking the metro wound up taking the same amount of time, after accounting for traffic and parking. She did state, however, that the metro was more expensive.
“The metro was more expensive because I’d have to pay 5 dollars a day to park at the metro parking and then also add money onto my metro card every week,” said Seals. She wishes that the metro was more convenient and less expensive, as she would rather not drive through traffic.