Sometime in the '60s, leaders of every college in America must have held a secret conference where they decided it would be really funny to provide parking for only about half their students.
Maybe at the same meeting, they also decided to rob them blind on parking. Because, you know, car payments, insurance and gas aren't expensive enough.
So what's a 21st-century student to do? Well, you could take the bus, but our system has its limitations. And, like every system, it also has its share of guys who haven't showered in three weeks, and women who come in close to share their life story after having eaten an entire clove of elephant garlic.
Fortunately, there are some other ways to find inexpensive and eco-friendly commuting options.
Remember when you were a kid and you couldn't wait to get outside and ride your bike? That feeling doesn't have to be a thing of the past. Bikes are an excellent alternative mode of transportation for college students. They don't have to be expensive — stores like Bicycle Experience and Gearonimo Sports offer a good used selection — and, of course, require no insurance, gas or parking payments.
Biking is also a great way to sneak in a daily workout. During your commute, you can improve your cardiovascular health and muscle tone and help keep off that freshman 15. (See here.)
Since biking long distances may be a bit much for the average person, Mountain Metropolitan Transit has bike racks on all buses through its bike-n-bus program. That way, you can take a bus for part of your trip and bike for the rest of it.
If you're close enough to bike from start to finish, you'll be happy to know that new Colorado Springs City Councilman Tim Leigh is working on some initiatives to make the city more bicycle-friendly.
"The bike advisory committee has been working up a plan to implement sharrows and bike paths all over the city as part of the comprehensive regional transportation plan," he says. "'Sharrows' are painted indicators on the street that let drivers know that the lane they're in is to be shared with cyclists. They're already painted from Union Boulevard through downtown into Manitou Springs, with more routes in the works.
Also of note: The city's Complete Streets Policy requires that all new streets and upgraded streets include a bike lane. "Colorado Springs is really oriented toward becoming a much more significantly bike-friendly community," Leigh says.
No, it's not Denver, whose B-cycle program allows members to borrow bicycles from stands located all over the city. But if you think we should move in that direction, go to bcycle.com/whowantsitmore.aspx to vote for bike sharing in the Springs.
It can get really hot on a bike, especially around this time of year. If you don't like showing up to class sweating through your clothes, consider the scooter option.
As long as you purchase a model that is less than 50cc (a low-powered scooter), you need only a driver's license, not a motorcycle license or a license plate. You may also get to park for free by a bike rack. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs requires a bike pass, which you can obtain for free from Public Safety; Colorado College requires no bike pass; and Pikes Peak Community College asks that you park in the motorcycle parking area, which is also free.
For $1,500 to $3,000, you can pick up a low-powered scooter. And ensuing costs are also relatively low. Insurance averages less than $100 per year, and gas costs are almost unnoticeable, since they can get 70-plus miles per gallon.
Low-powered scooters are allowed on any road except highways. That said, Sportique Scooters owner Jarrod Stuhlsatz recommends "avoiding streets you can't keep up on, like Powers [Boulevard]," for safety reasons.
There are, of course, faster scooters. But no matter what you buy, you should do some research and figure out which names to trust. "There are a lot of poor-quality, cheap Chinese scooters out there, and they're sort of dangerous and should be avoided," Stuhlsatz says. "Since you're putting your life in its hands, we recommend getting a quality machine."
If you are just altogether opposed to two-wheeled options, carpooling and vanpooling are cheap, easy alternatives.
Metro Rides, a grant-funded city program, offers a free carpool-matching option. Simply register at rp.springsgov.com/rp/, enter your location, where you are going, what time you need to be there and what time you need to return, and "we match [you] up from centralized areas to matching schools," says program coordinator Robert Featherstone. You can choose to be a driver or a rider, or both. Typically, most people share driving duties so one person isn't stuck with it (or the gas cost) all the time.
"If that just doesn't coincide with what [your] needs are," Featherstone says, "then we start looking at the vanpool program."
Generally for people commuting 45 miles or more, the vanpool program requires that you pay a monthly fare, based on the distance of the commute and the number of passengers in the van. Either way, the point of Metro Rides is to find you a ride, so Featherstone and his colleagues will work with you to get you where you need to go.