UT-Austin students weigh transportation options, express safety concerns

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Photo Credit: Alex Donavan | Daily Texan Staff

Some students are avoiding public transportation during the pandemic because of safety concerns. But those without a car, like out-of-state student Anna Kaminetz, might find themselves stranded on the Forty Acres if campus shuts down. 

If UT closes campus like The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or SUNY Oneonta have, students without cars could be left scrambling to return home. As of publication, UT has not announced a specific number of cases that would prompt a campus closure.

Design freshman Kaminetz said she plans to drive back to her hometown of Philadelphia with a friend from UT if this happens. 

“Our plan is to drive back together at Thanksgiving or if we get thrown out of the dorms beforehand,” Kaminetz said. “Knowing that I have him and his car means I could leave at any time. If he decided to leave before me, that would be a very different story.”

For Kaminetz, bringing a car to campus wasn’t an option. 

“I don't have my own car at home,” Kaminetz said. “I share one with my younger brother, who's still in high school. I've been driving around with friends, but most of the time I have just been walking.”

Some students, like Kaminetz, are hesitant to rely on alternative modes of transportation such as Uber, Lyft, public buses and electric scooters during the pandemic.

Social distancing while on a bus or in an Uber can be challenging because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others,

“(On the bus), I definitely have been extra careful, paying attention to the social distancing sign on the bus and sanitizing everytime I get on and off,” said Austin Tackman, a radio-television-film freshman.

Tackman said she also worries about the cleanliness of the buses themselves.

“I think (the pandemic) is definitely affecting the way I view public transportation like the bus just because I know typically they're not as sanitized as they should be,” Tackman said. 

UT is asking those who do rely on the UT shuttle service to wear a face mask and keep an empty seat between passengers.

To address sanitation concerns, Uber released a companywide mandate that requires their drivers to wash their hands regularly, wear face coverings and keep windows open in the vehicle. However, Tackman said she is still hesitant to get in an Uber. 

Other students, like journalism freshman Merit Davis, are still using their own cars to get around. 

“I'm for sure using (my car) a lot more than I think I would if (COVID-19) hadn't been a thing,” Davis said. “I would be walking around more, using buses and Lime scooters. It's nice knowing that I'm safe in my car.”

Davis said her roommates rely on her to go places. 

“One of my roommates doesn't have a car, so I drive her places,” Davis said.

Davis said she takes comfort in knowing exactly who has been in her car.

“I would much rather use my car over public transit, whether that be an Uber or a bus or anything of that sort,” Davis said. “You don't know who's been on it. You don't know who's been touching it.”