UMass Boston Should End The Commute

Photograph of passengers awaiting an approaching Alewife bound train at JFK/UMASS station. 

Every day, most of the University of Massachusetts Boston students commute to school to attend classes, whether it’s by car, bike, foot, or public transit. This may seem normal for all students who commute to community college—after all, there’s a growing number of students commuting to their 4-year colleges to save money. However, as normal as this may seem, it is bad for your health and can be counterproductive to your work schedule; commuting makes you miserable, leads to an increase in health problems, and is a waste of time. This can lead to disastrous consequences in the future.

One of the consequences of commuting is that you feel very miserable. A British transportation researcher, Daniel Newman, looked at a study of 21,000 workers in Sweden and found a correlation between chronic stress and long commutes (1). One reason why this is the case is because whether you’re taking the MBTA or driving a car, you have to plan ahead and set yourself to a schedule every day. When taking the Commuter Rail, you need to be punctual and precise in arriving on time and finding your rail. The train can also suffer delays. Not to mention, at South Station, when the trains are coming in, they’re screeching so loud that it can burst your eardrums. These issues can produce stress where you become worried about missing the train and worry about not having enough time to exercise or study at home. 

The issue with driving your car is that you have to wait in traffic, and it can be more stressful than taking the train. You have to pay attention to the road for traffic lights, pedestrians, and aggressive drivers. This can be even more stressful since your life is on the line. This can lead to an added toll on your health and is very damaging.

It’s not only the issue of being miserable and unhappy, you also can suffer health issues. Dr. Christine Hoehner says, “We've found that people who commute longer distances are less fit, more likely to be obese, and have worse metabolic outcomes than those with shorter ones” (1). The thing is that when you’re commuting by car, you’re sitting in one place all day and this can cause you to be obese.

Take it from me; when I used to commute here, I was often very tired and had a limited amount of time to do my work and enjoy life on campus. Often, when I finished classes, I would go to South Station or Downtown Crossing and get food from there. However, the food was high in carbs, sugars, and calories. In addition to this meal, I would eat a bowl of ice cream or dessert since I felt so miserable. Even when I got home, I didn’t have the drive to do a long workout since exhausting myself sounded tiring; this prevented me from losing weight. Data analyzed from the American Time Use survey showed that those who commuted often eat more fast food rather than homemade food, work rather than sleep, and relax rather than exercise (1). As it turns out, these long commutes often cut into the commuters’ time, and they feel less inclined to exercise.

If you think that health issues are bad, then try having a social life at your college. Depending on where you go to college, if your school has bad food, then you’re more inclined to want to eat take out; this can cut a lot of your time from college. When I was in Bunker Hill and MassBay community colleges, I was often depressed. When I started my summer semester, I had made a lot of friends, but we didn’t keep in contact, since they were private and I was busy working. For the most part, many students at community colleges are working parents or people working full-time; these people tend to not want to interact with anyone. Most people in community college want to go to classes, listen to the professors, and then go to the next class, until they’re done. Basically, no one wants to hang out and get to know each other on campus. They want to do their classes and go home. One hiring manager from Whole Foods told me that when he was at Bunker Hill, he would go to classes, but his classmates would never speak to him. Although UMass Boston is a 4-year university and it has the resources for scientific research, study rooms, athletics, and clubs, there really aren’t enough of them—more importantly, most people have little time to join, since they’re too busy commuting. 

This, along with many other factors, indicate that commuting is bad. Although, commuting is bad for your health, there are some solutions. The main solution to this is that the university has to build more dorms for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Dorms can not only bring in revenue for the college, but further encourage people to commute less and live more on campus. Although people argue that dorms cost a lot per semester, being healthy matters more than losing a few extra bucks. Students can do a lot more by living in the dorms. Now that I live on campus, I find it easier to get to my classes and make friends here. I thought that the university food was horrible, but the dining hall food of the dorms isn’t bad depending on what time you eat. Another thing I enjoy about living in the dorms is that I can walk to Star Market and buy some meals that I like. I’m now able to make friends and socialize more at the dorms. Every time I go downstairs, I find people who I like and speak to them. I don’t have to be worried about missing my classes and find it easier to exercise and go to the gym. Not only can I work out more often, but I can play basketball and train to be an athlete. 

(1) https://www.vox.com/2015/5/20/8629881/commuting-health-happiness

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