Calvin College Chimes

Response to Feb. 15 Enterprise Article

Graphic by Yolanda Chow

Graphic by Yolanda Chow

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I would like to respond to the Feb. 15 article regarding the shutdown of the Enterprise CarShare program, and particularly its conclusion, which is as follows: “As of right now, no plans have been made for future transportation programs on campus.”

Reading the article led me to my own conclusion: something like, “Well, good.” If there are no plans to replace Enterprise, let’s keep it that way.

Snark aside, I stand by this conclusion, and against the perspective offered by the article and those quoted in it. To put it simply, wasting our breath over the loss of Enterprise both indicates and reinforces a functional ignorance and underutilization of the transportation options we do have available on campus.

Full transparency: I am writing as one who, believe it or not, survived my first three-plus years at Calvin without a car. Admittedly, the lack of mobility came as a shock to me at first; I was, perhaps like many of our students, formed by a car-centric, suburban context. I certainly didn’t adapt right away, but I hit a breaking point about two weeks into my freshman year. The realization hit: I had not left campus since move-in day.

Shortly thereafter, I rode the Rapid (i.e., the bus) for the first time. It was nothing life-changing, honestly. A few friends and I hopped on the 6, ate some barbecue from a food truck downtown and made it back by dark. Sure, there was confusion—Where do I put my quarters? Do I want northbound or southbound?—but that simple trip opened up my life in this city. From that point on, whenever I wanted to get away from our lovely campus, I could, and it only cost me 50 cents.

Granted, the freedom of the bus is not the freedom of the car. It’s lighter on the autonomy, not to mention the efficiency. However, a bit of dependence and slowness need not be seen strictly as a loss of mobility. Instead, we can choose to see the gains of non-car mobility.

My own story reflects one very basic gain, especially for students stuck on our campus: the ability to leave, relatively speaking, when one feels like it. I do not wish to understate this point by calling it “basic,” but I do think it is secondary to the other gains made by choosing to embrace a life of non-car mobility.

Beyond this basic freedom, a very important gain is a more attentive and engaged relationship with the city, the landmarks, the cross-streets, the built environment in general, and, most importantly, the people who give that environment life. Move slower; see more. It can be that simple.

And, to obviously gesture to the elephant in the room, non-car mobility has environmental ethics on its side. I have to drop that in, because it is important to me, but mostly because this column is literally called “It’s Getting Hot in Here.”

Now, I realize that I may have veered a bit here, beginning to preach. None of that, though. The car-centric model represented by the Feb. 15 article implies its own ideology; I see no need to counter that one with one of my own. I would rather this be a witness to possibilities. I am simply speaking from experience, joyful and embodied experience, of a city that I have learned to love at a snail’s pace.

In other words, the closest I would like to come to ideology is to say this: it seems absurd to bemoan the loss of an expensive rental car program when we didn’t need it in the first place. The possibilities for effective and enjoyable mobility existed before Enterprise and still exist today: take a walk, hop on a bus, ride a bicycle, ask for a ride, even call a Lyft. Let’s not limit the possibilities.

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