As someone who comes from a larger city with decent public transportation, I don’t own a car. I can drive, but I don’t need to drive as frequently as most Manchester residents. When I first got to campus, I noticed that, despite being the state’s central city, it is nothing like any major city near my home in New York. The city functions more like a suburb than a major city and that boils down to its troublesome bus system.
Most cities in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest have their cities built in a distinct style. They were built to be dense and walkable and as a result have better transportation, especially in larger cities. Manchester, however, seems to operate differently. Whenever I plan to go somewhere I either have to get a ride from a friend or take an Uber. I’ve tried to take the bus, and it is absolutely miserable.
I understand calling the bus miserable perpetuates the stigma against public transportation. One of the issues with the system, however, is that it is frequently late, despite only arriving every forty-five minutes. This is compounded with the city’s excessive traffic.
The stigma against public transportation is also rooted in classism, yet people often forget that reliable public transportation is the backbone of a successful city. Transit especially helps people at the bottom of the income scale to rise out of poverty. Mass transit is also helpful for students seeking off-campus employment.
Students who own vehicles are exposed to a far greater selection of jobs than those who do not. Most off-campus employers require a student to have their own transportation. Reliable public transportation may be an effective solution.
It’s possible that the city of Manchester believes that the cost on implementing an improved program would outweigh the benefits. If the demand is not significant enough, then change is unlikely to come. The widespread use of cars as well as Manchester’s relatively modest size may have lead to officials to the conclusion that reform is not needed. Conversely, an improved public transportation system would serve as a selling point for the city and easier commutes and increased opportunities for area residents.
Manchester’s public transportation was not always this problematic. Manchester had a streetcar system back in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This system was more expansive than the current bus system and was most definitely more reliable due to the inaccessibility of cars.
The car became a commodity following the conclusion of World War Two. Manchester, like most cities of it’s size, decided to ditch it’s streetcar system. This led Manchester to become the car-dependent city that it is today.
Today, this trend seems to be reversing. Many cities are now creating light rail systems to make it easier for citizens to get around without a car. Upon seeing this, I wonder why Manchester has not even considered implementing a system of it’s own. It is unfortunate reality that not everyone has access to a car, so implementing a rail trail system would be beneficial not just to college students, but to the city as a whole.