No car, no problem, right?

Charlie Roiland

When you come to Augustana, it is almost impossible to find a parking spot. Residence hall parking lots are filled to the brim with cars, so much so that students with parking permits often struggle to find a spot. 

Although it may seem like every student has a car on campus, there are a good number of students, especially underclassmen, who do not. When these students need to leave campus for any reason, they have to utilize the bus system or find a friend who has a car.

It can be a bit of a shock for underclassmen to discover that the majority of students have cars. “I thought that junior or senior year a car would be needed, not right now,” first-year Heather Michalski said. 

Some students do not have any friends who have a car on campus. For others, almost everyone they know has a car. The convenience of getting places off campus for students without a car depends on who they know and who they feel comfortable asking for a ride.

“Most of my friends have a car,” Michalski said. “There’s usually someone who is able to drive me.” 

However, when students like Michalski cannot find a ride, it can be difficult to get where they need to go. A lack of transportation can also be dangerous, as if there is an emergency students may be left stranded and unable to get to safety. Between the unpredictability of rides and the lack of areas within a safe walking distance, off-campus options are few and far between for students without cars.

Although it’s not everyone’s first choice, the Rock Island bus system is one mode of transportation that students without cars can utilize. This system runs between Rock Island and Moline on a day-to-day basis, however, the routes change every day, and it is difficult to predict when the bus will actually be an option. 

When students want to go to the mall or Target, the bus system can be a great option as long as there are available routes with a round-trip option. It can also be an inconvenience, as many routes have no return option. Along with a lack of return option, many routes can take upwards of an hour depending on how many stops they have, as well as having a long walking distance to or from the bus stop. Because of this, many students opt to not use the buses.

Safety off campus is a huge factor for many students. Although there are conveniently located stores such as Walgreens and Hyvee within a mile from campus, recent instances of crime in the area make students wary. 

“I try to stay in the lit areas of campus,” Michalski said. “If I had a car, I would feel a little bit safer going off campus.” 

While walking off campus during the day is an option in a necessary situation, many students do not feel comfortable walking alone. During the night, however, the majority of students avoid walking altogether. 

“I know a lot of people who use ACES because they don’t want to walk around campus,” Michalski said. “At night, I find myself trying to stay on campus unless I have a car.”

Along with this, off campus hang out spots within walking distance are very limited. Cool Beanz, a local coffee shop, recently moved away from its location on the hilltop. This took away a major area where students would often spend time off campus.

The majority of other popular spots amongst Augustana students, such as Northpark Mall, are in Davenport. In order to get to Davenport, students have to find their own mode of transportation, often a friend with a car. The bus system does not run from Illinois to Iowa, which is an inconvenience for many students without a car.

While off-campus hangout spots are not very accessible for students without cars, Augustana has multiple on-campus opportunities throughout the year. 

For students who want a place to grab a cup of coffee and relax with friends, the Brew by the Slough is popular. “It’s a good option for students who do want that café type vibe,” junior Isabella Gmitrovic said. 

For students who are more interested in big social events, Augustana has a lot going on. “We have campus movies all the time in Olin, which is pretty much like a movie theater,” Gmitrovic said. 

Bingo nights are another popular campus event. Every so often, Augustana puts on a bingo night where students who participate are eligible to win cash prizes. These occur on Friday nights, so students who are unable to go off campus to participate in social events are still able to socialize in a large group. “The OSL does things pretty much every Friday and Saturday night,” Gmitrovic said. “Even during Covid, they still did.”

The Office of Student Life works hard to organize many on-campus events for students, which can be helpful for those who want to get out and don’t have a car. 

Gmitrovic mentions how near the end of every academic year, a large concert occurs on Augustana’s campus. “We have Sloughfest, and not every small school can even afford to do something like that,” Gmitrovic said. 

Even though getting to places off-campus is difficult for many students who do not have a car, the large amount of on-campus opportunities make up for it. Augustana offers many unique events that other schools with a more available off-campus area do not, making sure to prioritize the desires of the students who will be attending the event. While not having a car may be a slight disadvantage for students, the fullness of Augustana’s on-campus life easily trumps the inconvenience.