University officials should have more accessible options and facilities for inclusion of commuter students.
At the beginning of each semester, swarms of parents unload small fortunes in living costs from their vehicles, making Temple look more like a luxurious Rubbermaid refugee camp than an assimilated urban campus.
“City schools are hot,” said Hillel Hoffmann, the assistant director of news communications. “The number of Temple students who have chosen to live on or around campus has nearly tripled since 2000.”
Temple has historically accommodated commuter students, but with one quick glance around Main Campus, and you’ll realize Temple has failed to foster a comfortable atmosphere for them.
Cramped subway platforms, orange cone- and lawn chair-infested parking disputes and the frost-bitten, shelter-cowering train delays on SEPTA’s elevated Temple station are all evidence of the inconveniences commuters face.
Most commuters would likely be aware of these hardships when they chose Temple over the other less-accessible Philadelphia-area colleges and universities, however, while Main Campus’ expansion continues to spark debates about the relationship between Temple and the North Philadelphia community, commuter students struggle to fit into the increasingly inclusive atmosphere.
Tom Perri, a senior English major, said his three-part commute to and from Temple each day consists of catching “the No. 3 at ‘Bedlam and Squalor,’ [transferring] twice and [disembarking] at the seventh circle of hell.”
Because of this time-consuming commute, full-time students like Perri must adjust their schedules to accommodate for their courses.
“Because I can’t realistically leave campus and come back, I try to stack my classes,” Perri said.
Despite this, Perri still makes the hour-long commute for classes three to four days per week, in addition to a night class at TUCC.
Commuters who drive, such as sports management graduate, Dan Lacey, often have trouble parking around Main Campus.
“Since guaranteed parking costs me an arm and a leg, I have to park outside of Temple, [while at the same time] fighting for parking with locals,” Lacey said. “Even the kids who live in dorms take up parking spots.”
According to the 20/20 plan parameters from May 2009, residential housing will expand by as much as 66 percent, but parking capacity will only increase by as much as 14 percent.
Even then, the proposed building of vertical parking structures won’t affect commuters who decide to park for free on the street, which has been an ongoing cause of tension between the surrounding community and the university.
“I don’t mind Temple students parking in front of my house, because I don’t drive,” said Rosalind Russell, a 20-year resident of the 2100 block of North Marvine Street. “But Temple shouldn’t push their parking problem on us. They haven’t bought this block yet.”
In fact, streets such as Norris and 10th streets, which are “not recommended” by the Office of Parking Services as viable parking, are often the first picks for 8 a.m. commuters and residential students alike. Though they may only need a vehicle for the occasional trip home, the dormant cars of these students collect dust in the streets “recommended” for commuters.
“It just doesn’t make sense to expand all of the Temple-owned parking garages, because no one but tenured professors can afford them,” Lacey said.
Regardless of whether commuters are able to brave cross-town traffic or decide to navigate SEPTA’s intricate web of untimely buses and increasing fares, they arrive at a campus that is arguably unfit to accommodate modern commuters. These heavy-laden students struggle to reach Main Campus via cars, bikes and trains, carrying enough cargo to last a hectic day of classes, research and sometimes, a job.
Considering the binary network of cash-only vendor trucks and expensive Temple-sponsored dining areas, the simple acquisition of lunch on campus becomes a time-consuming fiscal investment – unless of course, you’re willing to pack a lunch and wait in line for the microwave.
I don’t aim to be misinterpreted as clamoring for more dining halls. Simply providing more microwaves, lockers and “commuter-friendly” lounges would not be sufficient.
With the increase in residential housing, and tuition increasing every semester, Temple no longer reflects the “night owl” commuter mentality, for which the school is so famous. Commuters need to know the school will not inhibit an academic lifestyle, but rather, encourage it.
Temple needs to open its study facilities during weekends and holidays to truly benefit nontraditional commuter students. To facilitate smoother student transportation, Temple could offer a SEPTA liaison, in which, commuters could purchase tokens and passes without having to endure draconian “cash-only” restrictions. One of the proposed multi-level garages could be designated for on/around-campus students who only need their cars infrequently.
Joel Faltermayer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.