When it comes to housing, many students limit their search to West Campus. But as rent climbs and enrollment hits record highs, students are trading convenience for more affordable housing. But what happens when an increasing number of students can’t walk to campus?
When housing on campus alone can range from $8,700 to $15,000 per year, the perceived problems with commuting suddenly seem worthwhile. Reduced rent and more living space seem like worthy trades for campus proximity, but the problem extends beyond traffic for many commuters.
“The issue in reaching class on time is not just the morning jam on Mopac, but just unpredictable events that come with it,” said psychology junior Jason Pang, a resident of Northwest Austin. “The bus broke down once — it just straight up stopped running. I’ve seen other buses get flats and have to pull over. All this can make commuting a hassle, especially during exam week.”
The scarce parking can also cause a problem for many commuters.
“Permits for parking on campus are expensive if you’re not an employee, so I have to go by the bus schedule instead,” Pang said. “Of course if it’s an emergency, like making it in time for a test, I can always drive myself and pay for a parking garage or get dropped off by family.”
The perks of living near campus are evident. To make an 8 a.m. class, students can simply wake up 30 minutes before and walk there. Left your homework in the room? Run back and get it. Have a club or group meeting two hours after class? Go home and grab some dinner.
But, for traveling students organization, is key. Professors do not usually excuse being late to class, lab or an exam because traffic was a mess, so commuting always involves planning ahead.
“It’s more difficult to be involved in what happens outside of class hours, like student organizations or group projects,” said senior electrical engineering major Karan Dodia. “The worst part about commuting was a physics lab I had from 8 to 11 p.m. The last northbound express bus left the Guadalupe and 26th streets stop at 10:50 p.m., so I would usually have to sprint from RLM all the way up 26th Street.”
The varying bus schedule poses a particular problem for those who come to Austin without a car. On weekends, buses that usually commute uptown, like the 983 Route, do not run, which leaves the 3 Route bus as one of the few slower options. As a result, many believe enjoying weekends or nightlife at UT or downtown Austin can be more difficult being at the mercy of a bus schedule.
But, not all students feel that living away from campus inhibits their social life.
“Just because I work and commute doesn’t mean I can’t have a good time,” said sophomore Latin American studies major and North Austin native Blanca Badillo. “I go clubbing with Texas Latin Dance most Thursdays; I can always make weekend parties, and even make time for a dance class.”