To many USC students, having a car in Los Angeles is essential. In many cases, from going to an internship to going to the movies, it’s simply the fastest and most convenient way to get around. But while it may be convenient, students ought to keep in mind that driving is not always necessary, especially when going short distances. And more than that, driving contributes to the serious problem of air pollution in L.A. As such, USC should be doing more to encourage students to take alternative, environmentally friendly transportation methods to and from campus.
According to NBC, residents of L.A. county are exposed to 60% more vehicle pollution than the California state average. While there are certainly other causes of the infamous L.A. smog, according to the L.A. Times, cars account for about 60 to 70% of the air pollution in the L.A. area. Although there is an increase in the amount of environmentally friendly vehicles being made, driving remains an unsustainable method of mass-commuting.
As described by USC on their Office of International Services page, “Cars are the most popular and convenient form of transportation in Los Angeles.” Considering L.A.’s spread-out nature as well an underdeveloped public transportation system, owning a car while living here is almost a give-in. So despite the growing awareness of the dangers of air pollution and greenhouse gases, it seems that L.A. refuses to sway from its driving-centric culture.
It’s important to remember that there are alternative forms of transportation available for traveling short distances, especially in the area around USC. For those students who live in the USC area, getting to campus doesn’t and shouldn’t require a car. In fact, most students opt to bike, board or walk to class each day.
Despite alternative modes of transport, many students who live around University Park still choose to drive to school because of its convenience. It seems that these driving habits are made possible by the school. USC enables students to drive to and from campus by offering parking spots. While many students do genuinely need these spots due to disability, injury or the need to transport equipment, the University should put more emphasis on discouraging those who don’t need to drive on their commute to campus.
Not only are there other alternatives such as biking and boarding, but in some cases, USC even offers shared transportation options such as shuttle or bus services. Many of the USC housing options are either within walking or biking distance or come with a shuttle service. The Lorenzo operates shuttles that run every 20 minutes specifically to take students to and from campus. While these shuttles do contribute to the vehicle emissions problem, they at least promote carpooling and cut down on the number of vehicles being driven.
Certainly, USC does not need to stop offering on-campus parking to students. Many students do rely on driving to transport equipment to campus or because they are unable to walk or bike. Some students may even opt to drive because they believe that it is the safest way of getting around the USC area, especially at night. However, there are still better ways to get to and from campus in the evenings. USC offers nighttime carpool programs such as free Lyft and Campus Cruiser.
In sum, the school should do a better job of discouraging those who don’t necessarily need to drive. Charging a flat, monthly or semester-long parking rate to students only encourages them to use their on-campus parking spots more frequently throughout the semester.
Given the myriad transportation options available to students living in the USC area, such as biking or even good-old-fashioned walking, and considering the ongoing climate crisis, it seems odd that USC continues to promote driving to campus as a commuting option for local students. Now, more than ever, our community needs to focus on supporting environmentally friendly methods of transportation for students rather than those that are unsustainable.