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Planes, trains … and vans?

January 24, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

Students connected flights, caught trains and hitched rides to arrive back on campus last week for the start of the spring semester. Despite the College’s relative proximity to various transportation hubs, returning to campus can often be costly and complex.

Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) wields its budget generously. It provides free taxis to Walmart on Sundays at 1 p.m., it subsidizes movie tickets at Regal Cinemas and it funds evening Safe Rides. It’s an impressive and perhaps underutilized list of services.

However, among the impressive list of transportation options made available to Bowdoin students, one is noticeably absent: convenient and inexpensive transportation to and from the Portland International Jetport and the Portland Transportation Center in the days leading up to and after breaks.

This service would build on Bowdoin’s existing transportation framework: rent 12-passenger vans, (the same vans used by clubs such as the Bowdoin Outing Club,) and hire a few employees to run a shuttle to and from transportation hubs a few times per day in the days before and after breaks.

Vans can comfortably fit 10 students, their luggage and a driver. Four round trips per day could transport 40 students, who could sign up via a Google Form on a first-come, first-served basis, directly to the airport and transportation center.

The cost of a van rental is $35. Four trips would use $29 worth of gas (based on current prices in Maine). Eight hours of driving labor would cost $136 (paying drivers $17 per hour for two hours per round trip). In total, each day of the shuttle service would cost an estimated $200.

BSG could conceivably subsidize the cost. However, even if BSG doesn’t have the funding, a fee of $5 per student could cover the costs of a full shuttle. This stands in stark contrast to the $25-$50 students without access to personal vehicles must cough up to get to Portland—a price equal to several hours of work-study wages. The Metro BREEZ may be cost-efficient at $3, but it doesn’t run on Sundays (a major travel day), and it doesn’t go directly to the airport, forcing students to endure the added hassle of transitioning to another bus with all of their luggage.

Lower-income students from more geographically diverse locations—students that Bowdoin has repeatedly tried to attract and accommodate—are hit the hardest by the high price of transportation. They are less likely to have access to cars and more likely to need transportation to Portland. As a result of the College’s no-car policy, first years are also at a disadvantage and are forced to either pay for a taxi or ask an upperclassman for a ride.

The status quo results in both higher carbon emissions and increased financial burden. Though they are a step in the right direction, solutions like RideShare Boards cannot reach the entire population. Creating a comprehensive resource for our campus community—like the one Colby provides to its students—could have a significant impact on our carbon footprint and the College’s ability to support its students. Fewer single-passenger cars on the road would align with Bowdoin’s continued pursuit of a more sustainable campus culture. What better place to start than the busiest travel season?

The College has the infrastructure and the funds to provide inexpensive, convenient and environmentally friendly transportation. Travel can be an enormous source of stress for some. Bowdoin should do anything it can to alleviate that burden.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Emily Cohen, Brie Cunliffe, Anna Fauver, Roither Gonzales, Ellery Harkness, Alyce McFadden, and Reuben Schafir.


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One comment:

  1. Poodle Tartare says:

    This is the most no-brainer thing the BSG could do to be useful. Instead, they are thoughtlessly spending $500/year on condoms—when condoms are already provided for no charge at the health center. But we know the BSG is more interested in passing woke resolution than spending student money in a way that would help anyone.


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