Like any other theater kid in high school, I just wanted to be near New York City. Who knows if it was “Glee” or “Friends” or the sheer magnetism of the city itself, but I was convinced that the Big Apple was where all my wildest dreams would come true.
So naturally, when it came to my college search I focused on schools in the New York Metropolitan area. This led me to Montclair State University, a beautiful, modern and affordable school only 15 miles from the city.
In making my final decision, there were two aspects of Montclair State that especially pulled me in: its fantastic School of Communication and Media and the fact that New York City was supposedly only a train ride away. Unfortunately, Montclair State only delivered on one of those aspects.
Within my first week at school, I realized the city was in fact only a train ride away — on the weekdays. While trying to spend a night in the city with a group of people, I discovered that a quick trip there was nearly impossible on the weekends.
As freshmen with no cars, we would have had to Uber to a train station somewhat close to campus, then wait for a train that only came and went from the city every couple of hours. Not to mention the price tag on the trip was not pretty.
I was a little confused by these complications, and I certainly wasn’t the only baffled one in the group. Granted, I did get to go to New York City more than ever before, but I was lucky if I went around once a month and I was certainly splurging if I did decide to plan the trip.
Flash forward to now: my junior year at Montclair State in a post-quarantine world. I am lucky enough to have a car on campus that I spent a ton of money on just to be able to park it across the street from my apartment.
Although having the car has given me an immense amount of freedom in comparison to my freshman year, it didn’t help my case so much in terms of getting into the city. It still seems to take the same amount of creativity and money to get me just 15 miles east of campus.
On my first city trip after almost two years, I had to spend a couple of hours the day before simply trying to figure out a place to park my car for the night that wasn’t overpriced. I did eventually find free parking in Bloomfield where trains to the city leave every hour or so on the weekends.
I did all this just to miss the train the next day due to a faulty GPS and a conductor who decided to pull away from the station 10 minutes early. Getting back to campus the next day was a whole other adventure. Needless to say, in my experience, New York City is not as accessible to Montclair State as is advertised.
This isn’t just an inconvenience for students, it is a safety issue as well. There have been countless times where I’ve been stranded in some sketchy places by myself at night, just because of one train or bus coming early, or a tiny flaw in my travel plan returning to school.
The Montclarion did discuss this issue with Montclair State President Jonathan Koppell, and he expressed concern for this problem as well as interest in finding a solution.
There are several ways to address this issue, starting with giving the students the resources they need to be safe and have fun in the city. A simple web page on the university website with resources that could help students plan an affordable and safe trip into the city would go a long way.
Koppell even mentioned potentially providing a shuttle service through the school that would transport students to and from a station with access to the city on the weekends, like Secaucus Junction.
Either way, the administration needs to address this in some way, as we are a part of the Montclair State community on the weekends too, not just the weekdays. Our safety and overall quality of experience on weekends should be a priority.