Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mount Royal University, The Car Campus

After surveying University of Calgary's relative isolation, I was keen to have a look at the campus at Mount Royal University to determine how walkable the campus is there. With a longer history than University of Calgary, but a relatively brief period as a degree-granting university there might be some differences between the two universities. As with U of C there is a great deal of construction occurring at the Mount Royal campus and even more in the surrounding areas as well as the Currie Barracks area continues with its ongoing development.

The first indications at Mount Royal indicate that the campus is as much a commuter campus as U of C, without the benefits of having direct C-Train service to deliver much of the campus population there on a daily basis.  There is pretty substantial bus service to the campus but there is plenty of car traffic there as well. The first evidence of this is at the university gate which is some distance between the perimeter of campus and the main buildings of the university.  The first stops available are parking lots, sports fields and a parking structure which is commemorated with a plaque marking its opening in January, 2011.  This is not exactly the type of ribbon cutting moment that would be saved for time immemorial in the school's annals.

Apart from that plaque on the campus parking structure there are other signs that the school is not particularly walkable or oriented to pedestrians.  The flashing stop signs that greet the first on-campus intersection are a sign that drivers take a bit more liberty than they ought and that there is a need to tame drivers as well. The next indication is the speed trap flashing drivers' current speeds as they drive the thoroughfare between the Mah building and the Main building of the university. The street is a wide one that does not encourage drivers to slow down and gives them wide enough a berth to make a convenient U-turn to get off campus as quickly as possible.

There seems to be little about the campus to invite people there to meander around. The architecture is consistent in a manner that makes it difficult to distinguish the purpose of one building from others and there is little indication of where the main administration is.

All of the retail, which would provide a diversion from the repetition of the long arrays of windows, is indoors and the nearby neighbourhoods are a good distance away and further distanced from the university by the parking lots and athletic fields.

It is unfortunately that once again, a university campus is as isolated as it is from the rest of the city and in the case of Mount Royal, there would have to be questions about what would prompt students, faculty and staff to head outside for a walk, however, brief to contemplate their surroundings or whatever thoughts they might be having. At a time when research is indicating the intellectual benefits that can be gained by walking, it would be beneficial if the campus were altered in ways that made it more walkable, even within its own boundaries, and encouraged the benefits of walking on student life, thought and achievement.

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