Stuck in the Woods? The Trials and Tribulations of a Rural Commute

Students share their struggles traveling to and from Dartmouth’s remote campus.

by Hannah Shariff | 3/30/22 2:15am

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by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Part of the beauty of Dartmouth lies in its remote location. But at two and a half hours away from the nearest major city, living in the woods also effectively separates students from many of the modern conveniences of the outside world, like easy access to transportation — especially for students without a personal car. At the beginning and end of each term, the question of how to get to and from campus always seems to emerge, and it’s not always an easy problem to solve. 

Many Dartmouth students live far enough away from campus that air travel is their preferred mode of transit. Obviously, no planes land directly on campus, so students who fly need to have reliable transportation once they land — a niche filled by the Dartmouth Coach, which drops students off on campus from Boston Logan International Airport and Boston South Station, among other locations. While there are other airports closer to Dartmouth’s campus, Boston Logan — with its direct connection to campus via the Coach — is the most popular choice for students heading to Hanover from all across the world. 

Despite the Coach’s convenience, sometimes students like Jared Pugh ’25 find the window between a flight’s arrival and the Coach’s departure can be a little too small. 

“If you are just late by an iota of a second they pull out,” Pugh  said.

This quarter, Pugh was unable to make the Coach after waiting an unusually long time for baggage claim at Logan. 

“I was trying to get my baggage when I see that the Coach has already arrived in the front outside. So, I go outside and let the driver know that I’m waiting on my bags and that I just needed a few minutes. The man then said ‘no’ and that I’ll have to wait for the next Coach. He then proceeded to take off. I was appalled,” Pugh said. 

Jane Huang ’25 also experienced the downsides of the Coach’s punctuality when she accidentally overslept and missed her 3 a.m. bus.

“I brought all my stuff out there super early because I expected to wait in the Hop, but I didn’t realize it would be closed,” Huang said. “So I went back to my dorm and I remember looking at my phone — it was 1:50 a.m. The next time I looked at it, it was 3:15 am.” 

Huang added that she decided to rebook her flight because “there was no way” she could have arrived at the airport in time for her original reservation. 

“I spent the entire day calling Delta and ended up not sleeping at all,” Huang said. 

I am also not immune to Hanover travel woes. In addition to the Boston Coach, there is a Coach that runs between New York City and Dartmouth, but unlike the Boston Coach, this only runs once per day. Tickets are much more difficult to obtain than for the Boston Coach, and passengers must reserve a seat ahead of time. Unfortunately, I only learned this as I tried to purchase a ticket to New York, but failed to secure one for the proper date. The ticket I was able to get left a few days too late. 

Funnily enough, it seems that some students look to Dartmouth’s anonymous communication apps to solve their travel conundrums. I personally found my solution on Airfeed, an app that acts as an alternative to the recently departed Librex. Soon after I purchased my too-late Coach ticket, I saw a post which asked whether anyone had a ticket to New York and promised to pay double for the seat. I sold my ticket, and with the extra money, I was able to take the Coach to Boston and then a Greyhound to New York. Although I surprisingly ended up with leftover money from the exchange (do not take this as a sign to become a Dartmouth Coach ticket reseller), the arduous process of this experience has constantly reminded me to book my tickets in advance. 

The Coach is not the only source of student travel struggles; even taking the train, which stops a mere ten minutes from campus, can leave students stranded at the station in White River Junction. Ubers and Lyfts are virtually nonexistent in such a remote area, which leaves students with few options: either finding a friend with a car, or calling a taxi. 

Anish Sikhinam ’25, who lives in Connecticut, regularly takes the train to Vermont. To get to campus, he once tried to call Big Yellow Taxi — one of the few local taxi services — only to find that it was booked. 

“One time on the train it was 2 p.m. and it was scheduled to arrive around 6 p.m.. So at 2 p.m. I called the Big Yellow Taxi, trying to get a taxi for when I arrived, [but] they said that they weren’t available until 7 p.m.,” Sikhinam said. “I tried to call my friends to possibly pick me up but there was a snowstorm that weekend.” 

When Sikhinam arrived  in White River Junction, he had no ride and no idea what to do. He eventually attempted to call Safety and Security but was told they were not allowed to leave the town of Hanover to help him. 

“I don’t think SNS should be a taxi service, but I do think they should be able to help out in extreme circumstances,” he said. 

Luckily, Sikhinam was able to get to campus thanks to the help of some good samaritans.

“I was about to stay in a hotel, and the station master was nice enough to walk me there,”  he said. “As we were walking out we saw this group of moms that were leaving a restaurant, and the station-master asked them if they were heading up north and if they were willing to take me up to Hanover. They luckily said yes.”

After his experience, Sikhinam does not know if he can take the train anymore, which means he will have to take a longer ride by means of the Coach. 

“It definitely was not a fun experience,” he said. 

No matter how students get to campus, it seems that the panic of trying to secure a spot on the limited transportation options is almost universal among students.  The next time you find yourself missing a Coach or stranded in the middle of nowhere, remember that you aren’t alone — and soon, you’ll be able to commiserate with a not-insignificant portion of the Dartmouth population. 

Jane Huang is a member of The Dartmouth design staff. 

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