Photo by Griffin Overbye

Bikes, buses, and more: MA student commutes

During online learning, a student’s commute could be as short as pressing a Zoom link but now that we’re back in class, it’s gotten a lot longer. Of course, the way students commute can vary and COVID-19 has meant changes for the school and families. Transportation Director, Scott Glenn said “[COVID] created new challenges… but some things have been easier”.

At Minnehaha Academy, it’s most common for students to drive to school on their own or with a parent. This is similar to years past however, not everyone gets to school this way.
One option students have for commuting is using public transportation. Depending on where a student lives, it can be more convenient and provide greater freedom than taking a school bus. However, it can also be a lot more finicky. Every extra transfer adds time to the journey which can make it unviable for some people.

Junior Dante Donato said, “if you have to transfer three or four times, it’s really not worth it… if you live 20-30 minutes away by car, it’s going to take you an hour and a half, two hours to get [to school] by bus” … “if you live like where I am and it’s a straight shot … then I think it’s worth it.”

Another way students may get to school is by cycling. This can have some of the same benefits as using public transportation like greater independence and convenience.
“I can leave school then when I want to, so if I’m socializing … I can talk for as long as I want to … and not be wasting anybody else’s time,” said sophomore Sofia Howland.
Some people might also find the physical activity refreshing especially with how much more time we are spending at home.
“Even if it’s just five minutes of exercise, I feel it wakes me up more and I was more ready to learn,” said Howland.

But just like public transport, biking has its own downside and may not be reasonable for everyone. The biggest being cold winter weather when it can be dangerous to bike. Your distance away from school and the terrain might also make biking impractical. While biking may be an option for some, a car is still needed.

There is also school transportation but the ratio between that and students getting to school individually has gotten smaller.
“We have about 100 [preK- 12 students] using transportation right now,” said Glenn. “Last year and the year before that we were closer to 200.”
Understandably, Glenn cites the pandemic as the main reason for the decrease in ridership. Besides ride-sharing making people more uneasy about being in close contact with others, the pandemic has put restrictions on some transportation options and made others completely unviable. School buses have been running at reduced capacity and seating charts have been made, but the biggest change has been with the van service.
“It’d basically be one van per family which just financially didn’t make any sense at all,” said Glenn.

As COVID cases go down with the vaccine, the number of people using MA transportation will probably go up but it may be a while until it goes back to pre-COVID levels, if it ever does. Until things go back to normal, the car will continue to be king for Minnehaha students commuting to school.

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