Snow Day: Transportation in the Tri-Co

Haverford’s Dining Center as the snow falls in the morning

Haverford’s Dining Center as the snow falls in the morning

Swarthmore after I finished my classes

Swarthmore after I finished my classes

Snow Day: Transportation in the Tri-Co

As I shared my Fall 2013 college stories with friends and family over Winter Break, I came to realize how vital college transportation was to my semester.  Haverford is part of the Tri-College Consortium (Tri-Co), which means that Haverford students are able to take classes at Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr.  Haverford is also part of the Quaker Consortium, which consists of the Tri-Co as well as the University of Pennsylvania (Penn); if a class is not offered within the Tri-Co, Haverford students can take that class at Penn.  This academic cooperation between the schools provides manifold resources and opportunities for students. 

For the Fall 2013 semester, I made extensive use of the Tri-Co.  There was a scheduling conflict at Haverford, so I took my classes at Swarthmore.  To get to Swarthmore, I used the Tri-Co Van, which shuttles students between the three schools. The trip between Haverford and Swarthmore is a reliable 20- or 30-minute drive.  On a related note, the Blue Bus shuttles students between Bryn Mawr and Haverford.  This ride usually takes around 5 or 10 minutes, and I have taken it to work on group projects.  Both the Tri-Co Van and the Blue Bus are complementary services to Tri-Co students.  The van was very punctual and allowed me to arrive at Swarthmore in the morning and leave in the afternoon once my classes had ended.  It also allowed me to go to Swarthmore on other days of the week (including Fridays and weekends) to, for example, complete problem sets with groups or meet with professors.  Without the Tri-Co van, my semester would have been impossible. 

However, on December 10, a snowstorm caused the Tri-Co transportation system to shut down.  Of course, December 10 was the last day of classes before finals at Swarthmore, and I had a group presentation for one of my classes.  I had never missed a class, and I did not intend to start on that day.  An email was sent, informing students that the shuttle was not operating, so I tried calling a taxi company, which was also not operating.  Then, like a shining beacon, an employee of the College appeared and told me that SEPTA, the bus and train system that connects areas in and around Philadelphia, was likely still operating.  (Students who take classes at Penn use SEPTA for transportation, and others use it to experience all that Philadelphia has to offer.)  I had never used SEPTA before, so I knew this day was going to be an interesting experience. 

Conveniently, the Haverford Station stop is near campus, and a train was leaving soon.  Inconveniently, it was still snowing, there were several inches of snow on the ground, and I was worried about arriving on time.  I must have looked ridiculous, laden with a heavy bag and my burdensome backpack, wearing dress shoes, jeans, a button-down shirt, a sweater, a coat, hat, and gloves.  I made my way through the falling and fallen snow in a combination of running, jogging, and walking interspersed with labored breathing, but I made it.  With some help from an extremely kind stranger on the platform, I took the train to 69th Street Transportation Center and boarded the 109 bus, which took me to Swarthmore.  I thought the bus driver would stop at the appropriate place, and I did not know exactly where that place was, so as we were beginning to pass the campus, I asked where the stop was.  It had been a bit before, so the bus driver let me out where we were – I was at the bottom of the hill that leads to the part of Swarthmore’s campus where my classes were, which meant more jogging, running, and panting.  At least I got to see a new part of their campus!  I trekked up to my classroom and made all my classes.  As I walked into my first class (Semantics), my professor said that I did not have to come to class that day.  Triumphant and grinning, though out-of-breath, I responded, “Where would the fun be?” before I sat down and opened my notebook.  It was a satisfying moment to have arrived at the destination of my trek. 

When classes had ended, I bolted to the bus stop and just made it.  I took the 109 to 69th Street, which was rather busy, probably due to the evening rush hour.  I was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the end of the workday as I made it to the right train to take me to the Haverford Station, so I tried to blend in as a commuter student.  As I walked back to campus, exhausted from my classes and transportation adventure, I felt quite accomplished. 

This day was the perfect encapsulation of a hectic but ultimately rewarding semester.  In spite of an obstacle, I persevered to learn.  I view my SEPTA day as an exciting, completely new experience; the obstacle provided an opportunity to prove to myself that I could adapt to a radical change of plan.  For all the stress, I must admit that it was fun.  Instead of dwelling on the rare Tri-Co transportation cancellation, I utilized a wonderful resource (a nearby train station) that Haverford’s location offers.  The Tri-Co transportation system and SEPTA are two resources that facilitate academic activity for Haverford students and are great benefits of attending Haverford.  HAVER happy New Year!