Opinion: Helpful or a hassle? Making Willamette-provided transportation more accessible
For the last several years, Willamette has provided transportation from its campus to the Portland airport during breaks in hopes of making the burden of traveling home a little bit more bearable for Bearcats. But are these shuttles even helpful to students? Do they even use them? Are they really worth the money it costs to get a ticket?
Niki Nakasoni (‘27) travels all the way home to Oahu, Hawaii, and because of the long distance, she has to pick and choose which breaks she goes home for. “I can’t go home for Thanksgiving. It’s just too short,” Nakasoni said. “Even spring break is too short.” On the other end of the spectrum, students like Maddy Tabor (‘25), who lives in West Linn, Oregon, plan to go home for all the breaks. “I don’t have to go to an airport to get home. I have a car on campus that I use very frequently.” Tabor explained.
When asked if students planned to use, or even were aware of the provided transportation, the answers varied. Nakasoni said she is planning on hitching a ride on the shuttle because “it’s probably the least amount of time.” Even though Tabor says that she doesn't use the WU-provided transportation, she still thinks “[i]t is a nice feature and I think it helps people get to the airport.”
Jack Frischbutter (‘27), an international student from Alberta, Canada, holds a different opinion, stating he would rather utilize his friends. “Just based off of money, having a friend drive me up and drop me off at the airport and pick me up [is better].” Frischbutter used the WU-provided transportation in the past and said he didn’t love his experience. “I’d only do it again if I had to. That’d be my last mode of transportation,” he said.
Though some students appreciate and utilize the WU public transportation and other students would prefer to hitch a ride from a friend, there is a unanimous dislike towards the requirement that students pay for a ticket. “[Students are] already spending money to get home. Why would this person want to spend more money?” Tabor said. “It would be nice if it was included in our [tuition],” Nakasoni added, providing a possible solution: “I feel like there should be some sort of meal swipe. Like every student has this many shuttle passes that are free.”
Tabor expressed the need to ensure these shuttles are as accessible as possible for students. “[The freshman] class is a lot bigger than mine so I would imagine the need for it is increasing.” Like Nakasoni, she provided another possible solution: “Maybe if there was a way to have a survey or something that you can reserve a ticket on, but it’s still free.” Frischbutter emphasized the importance of this, saying, “People might not have cars, they might not have friends who have cars.”
Willamette has a concentrated number of international and out-of-state students. This allows those on campus to get a richer, more diverse college experience, but it also means that these students need support in traveling back home, whether that be across the city border to south of Portland or across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. It’s important to the students that Willamette does everything in its power to make transportation during breaks as accessible as possible, and with the fees included for a single ticket, it’s not always the easiest option.
It’s clear that in theory, a transportation service provided by Willamette for students is a key factor in ensuring that students have a reliable way to get from campus to the Portland airport. However, due to the financial burden, the shuttle service may become more of a hassle than helpful. A unanimous opinion among the students would be finding a way to cover the cost of basic transportation, whether through a certain amount of free passes for students, or a survey sent out to reserve seating for students.