Commuter Services Aims to Ease the Lives of Commuters

by Cathy Goodyear, Social Media Editor 

Commuters make up a large percentage at Manhattan College but are still outnumbered by the residential students leaving their needs underrepresented. According to the Manhattan College website around 75 percent of freshman live on campus leaving the remaining 25 percent commuters. This ratio evens out as upperclassmen move off campus.

Marilyn Carter, the director of Commuter Services and Outreach, along with the Commuter Student Association are trying to change that.

“We were working on data and trying to get as close as we can to the number of commuters on campus. You have your traditional commuters and then you have your resi-commuters. We are trying to find out who the resi-commuters are by zip codes. One of the ways we are doing that is working with the registrar’s office and trying to get a complete list of commuter students,” said Carter.

Students who live in the community but do not live with their parents like the traditional commuter are classified as resi-commuters. The college and Commuter Services Outreach hired a research institution to create an advanced, comprehensive survey to find out exactly who the commuters are and what their needs are.

“Margaret Groarke from the government department is going to be our guest speaker at our housing workshop. She is very involved in community action and housing is one of her fortes. We will be talking about what is it to be a resi-commuter, we want to talk about landlord tenant and your rights that you have, how to look up the landlord you are renting from and see if there are any violations and does this landlord just rent to students etc. So, there is a lot to learn about being independent and living off campus other than the fact that I want to follow my friends who are living off campus,” said Carter.

The office and CSA has been working on connecting commuters and providing resources to make the burden of a lengthy commute easier like hosting events and providing lockers. Brittney Vargas, a senior psychology commutes to campus by using the Bx9 bus.

“Since my commute is over an hour long, the lockers at Manhattan college have made my life so much easier. They’ve allowed me to keep supplies and books at school, so I can readily use them on campus when needed. Without the lockers on campus, I’d have to bring several bags to school with me and that would make commuting extremely difficult. Since I do prefer being a commuter, I really love that we have the option to rent out lockers and use them as storage,” said Vargas.

        Over the summer, Commuter Services and Outreach took over the locks from the orientation office, re-coded them and placed them on the lockers. The office is brainstorming new ways to give out locks more efficiently.

“Sometimes the simplest thing can be the hardest thing. We acquired the master lock keys and had to go through the company to do that which makes it much easier for us to have a master lock than us having to call security to come and break the locks. I’d like to get new lockers. These lockers are old and they are worn and torn and just for the physical appearance sake that needs to be cleaned up so trying to get new lockers is on my agenda,” said Carter.

The Commuter Student Association is also trying to get more commuter students involved on campus outside of academics and improving the college experience by providing workshops, commuter appreciation days, and a commuter breakfast. Anna Rosario, the president of CSA and vice president of Commuter Affairs on the Student Government Executive Board is dedicated to doing that.

“I want commuters to get the most out of their college experience, from going to athletic events to getting leadership positions in clubs, and everything in between. I also want our voices to be heard on campus, and that includes bringing our problems to the rest of the Student Government Executive board. CSA was created as a way for commuters to meet other commuters, but also to better improve commuters’ experience at Manhattan,” said Rosario.

CSA calls themselves a group that is dedicated in bettering the experience of a commuting Manhattan College student. Any objective when dealing with students is to assist them.

“That is why we started using 511 RideShare, a service which matches commuters with other people commuting in the same direction. Also, we are starting a program in conjunction with NJ transit in which we are trying to get discounts for monthly passes, for commuters who commute from New Jersey,” said Rosario.

The office acts as a third-party contract in a partnership with the MTA 511 RideShare. It provides the partnership but the carpool decision and arrangements is left up to the student.

“We are trying to come up with out own database. We know that we have students coming from different places particularly we have a sizable amount that are coming from New Jersey, that’s why we started the New Jersey Transit partnership program with them which will offer a 25% discount on tickets. That should be up and running in the next couple of weeks we hope. Right now, it is in the hands of marketing to work with the NJ Transit IT people to get it up on Manhattan Colleges website,” Said Carter.

The office has also introduced other new programs like Jasper Books. A lending library where students can donate old, unneeded textbooks and potentially pick up ones needed for their current classes.

“I am speaking with the manager of Barnes and Noble here at the bookstore. They have a program where they buy back books from college students but if the publisher does not take the book back, they donate the books to various charities, so we are trying to become that charity. I am going to be going after faculty members to donate some books and I am going to be asking commuters if at the end of the semester, if they can donate at least one book to their peers then that can make a big difference on trying to cut down the cost of books,” said Carter.

The program seems to be popular and successful because students have been coming in or contacting the office prior before school started and will not be officially running until next week.

“We have these programs here like the 511 RideShare and the New Jersey Transit and we want students to use it. It’s not easy to establish and be creative and get new and innovative things. We want students once we have them to actually use them,” said Carter.