By Jonathon Mecomber
If you commute to campus like I do, then I’m sure that you are more than familiar with the perils of university traffic. I came to Binghamton as a transfer student last fall and from the moment that I arrived, traffic has been one of my greatest qualms. Maybe it’s just because I come from the backcountry that is Upstate New York, where traffic congestion is almost never an issue outside of the tourist season. However, I remain convinced that traffic is one of Binghamton University’s biggest issues at the moment.
During my time here, I have identified three main areas of frustration related to traffic. The first issue is simply the amount of students who choose to commute to campus. Now, I’ll be the first to point out my own hypocrisy with this. I love the convenience of having my own car. It certainly is one of the greatest luxuries to be able to take my own vehicle to campus at a time when it’s best for me to do so. However, as students, we have access to a fantastic public transportation network. Not only can Binghamton University students use any OCCT bus without having to pay a fare, but they can also board any of the buses operated by Broome County Transit with a valid student ID, free of charge. Though it may be harder for more remote areas to find reliable transportation, if you live almost anywhere within the City of Binghamton or Johnson City, getting to campus via bus shouldn’t take any more than an hour at the most. I can’t help but grind my teeth when I see students who live at the U Club in the University Plaza (which is less than a mile from campus) driving their cars to campus despite the constant OCCT shuttle service and the fact that U Club even has its own shuttle service. Even if just a quarter of the students who currently commute switched to public transit, traffic congestion could be drastically reduced.
The second issue is the relationship between cars and pedestrians. Of course, legally speaking, drivers bear the largest amount of responsibility when it comes to avoiding a collision with pedestrians. However, safety is a two-way street (pardon the pun). I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve seen people step out into the road directly in front of my car without looking. I’ve also witnessed groups of people casually walking in the middle of the road during busy times on numerous occasions. Luckily for them, I try my best to be a cautious driver. If the sidewalks are crowded with people, I will try to drive under the speed limit, and I’m always anticipating to stop for a car, cyclist or pedestrian. However, if my years of driving experience have taught me anything, it’s that most drivers aren’t cautious. I’m often amazed by the amount of trust that pedestrians seem to frequently grant drivers.
The third and, in my view, largest issue is the swarm of pedestrians that uses the group of crosswalks which connect the Lecture Hall area to the Hinman community and to the Rockefeller Center. During the times when several classes are dismissed at once from the Lecture Hall, there are hordes of students which crosses at this area. Of course, drivers must yield to pedestrians in these crosswalks, but they can sometimes be waiting for a break in the crowd for several minutes at a time. This increases stress for drivers. Stressed out drivers are more likely to make unwise decisions, such as attempting to barge through the crosswalk when they see even the slightest gap. Furthermore, vehicles sometimes block the crosswalks during this daily gridlock catastrophe which creates an unsafe situation for pedestrians who may be unable to see oncoming traffic.
If the administration truly cares about student safety, then I believe that they should seek to alleviate this dangerous traffic problem quickly. Whether they decide to have police officers directing traffic, to install traffic lights or to even build something as ambitious as pedestrian bridges, anything which would allow cars and pedestrians to flow more smoothly would be preferable to what we have now. Let’s not wait for a tragedy like a struck pedestrian to occur before deciding to take action.