Finding a way: navigating without reliable transportation

Brianna Corley
Arts and Living Editor

Four bikes. One stolen. Two broken. One currently out of commission.

This is the life of Tanner Terrel, a sophomore who’s lived at The Quad his entire college career with no vehicle. He walks and gets the occasional ride from a friend. This doesn’t mean his transportation to school is assured.

“I walk, I bike or I bum rides,” Terrel said. “And I can’t always bum rides everywhere because I don’t have gas money.”

Terrel finds there are many other transportation difficulties that extend beyond stability.

“Rain is horrid,” Terrel said. “You walk, and you’re muddy and wet all day in class.”

He recalls cold conditions and running to a final last spring in the middle of a tornado warning. He also notes the physical obstacles that come with making it to class.

“The sidewalks are heinous,” Terrel said. “The LSMSA dorm being built got rid of the bike path I took every day, and now I have to take a ridiculously long way around.”

Terrel only recently found out about the shuttle bus that provides transportation for students on campus but does not know how to access its schedule or call for it.

He is, however, aware he is not alone in his struggle to find reliable transportation

“I definitely see a lot of kids walking, and I’ve seen LSMSA children walking to Walmart,” Terrel said.

Terrel believes public transportation could be beneficial to Natchitoches for those who do not have vehicles. It could help people go to Walmart or even get a job.

“It’s not necessary but it’d be more help,” Terrel said. “It’d make the town a bit better.”

Madysen Norra, a junior who also does not own a vehicle also thinks public transportation could be beneficial.

“For class I either walk or I ride with my roommate,” Norra said. “Grocery store or anywhere else just depends.”

While many of her friends do not have cars, Norra states their support system makes it so that it doesn’t matter as they often hitch rides with each other.

“It boils down to I have good friends, so difficulties don’t necessarily arise,” Norra said. “If I didn’t I could definite[ly] see where I could have difficulties.”

Norra used the shuttle bus earlier in semester when her roommate did not have a car but expressed difficulty in finding how to actually access it.

“We knew the shuttlebus existed, but we didn’t know how to contact it or what was involved with it,” Norra said.

Norra noted that it took 20 minutes to locate the number and thinks Northwestern State University should make a greater effort to inform students about how to access the shuttle bus.

She also notes that public transportation would be beneficial for Natchitoches.

“Public transportation is always useful, and it’s always beneficial to everyone who utilizes it,” Norra said. “I think having a bus system or a taxi system could be useful.”

While Natchitoches is organizing a plan to better biking and pedestrian livability, Mayor Lee Posey states there is no possibility for buses in the near future.

“I’ve been approached by groups, and every time we have come together most of the time it’s from people who want to get to hospital visits,” Posey said.

Natchitoches Regional Medical Center provides transportation, especially at their new cancer clinic, for people going to and from their appointments. The Natchitoches Parish Council on Aging also provides mobility assistance.

Posey regards that Natchitoches’s size does not demand buses and would cause a large financial burden on the city.

The bike and pedestrian plan, however, has been a work in process for some time and will be phased in slowly over the course of the upcoming years.

“We’re probably going to start on Northwestern’s campus and a couple of off campus spots,” Posey said.

Through NSU contact Van Erikson, Posey states that he hopes NSU will have rentable bikes on campus next year.

Implementing the bike and pedestrian plan doesn’t come without its own set of challenges.

“It’s challenging because we’re such an old community with narrow streets, and there’s not much [of a] way to widen those streets,” Posey said.

People over the age of twelve are not allowed to ride bikes on the sidewalks of Natchitoches. Posey wishes to keep the sidewalks only for pedestrians.

In terms of NSU students specifically, Posey stated he is aware of how many students do not have transportation. He also said that if NSU thinks there is an issue with student transportation they would work collaboratively to solve the problem.

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