Driving: How necessary is it for THHS students?

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Teenagers often can’t wait to get on the road. The convenience of having a driver’s license as well as the freedoms that accompany it are very appealing to many high school students, but at Townsend Harris, the story is slightly different.

Although half of THHS students are able to get a driver’s permit and later a license, only some choose to go through with the driver’s ed process before college. With a mass transit system available around the clock, driving at THHS is somewhat uncommon.

A considerable number of juniors and seniors do not feel it necessary to drive just yet. “I live pretty close to train stations and buses, so I feel comfortable with traveling and commuting,” said junior Afrida Khalid, who plans on getting a permit towards the end of her senior year. Junior Tina Chen is also content with using mass transit for now, though she admits that she would enjoy having another option. “It’s so much work to wait for the bus,” Tina said, “and sometimes the buses are very crowded.”

Junior Lucas Ayala currently has a driver’s permit, but said that once he gets his license, he would “probably still take public transportation to school because parking around Townsend is really bad.” Although senior Christina Brush drives, she agrees that parking is “one of the biggest struggles of driving,” as it seems as if “there is no parking anywhere.”

Commuting to Manhattan from other boroughs is also a major exception to the convenience of driving. For most students in NYC, the heavy traffic is a common reason to choose the subway. Though senior Alexa Barisano almost always drives herself around, “if [she has] to go into Manhattan [she] will still commute with public transportation.”

“Since New York has so many public transit lines,” Lucas added, “in a lot of places, it’s easier to take the train than it is to drive.”

Despite this, a number of students have already gotten their driver’s licenses and are now fairly experienced on the road. Alexa drives to school every day, and is glad she no longer has to rely on her parents or mass transportation for the otherwise lengthy ride: “I live in Howard Beach so it is only a 20 minute ride by car, but an hour and a half by bus.”

Christina is also glad to avoid the lengthy MTA commute. Driving from home also cuts down her travel time by over an hour. For Christina, a license “has definitely made [her] life more convenient,” and this holds true for many other new drivers who live far from school.

Some students have not yet acquired a license, but plan on learning to drive and then taking a road test in the near future. Junior Abhinav Garg, who has gotten his permit and begun driving on small errands with his dad, said that he was initially motivated to learn because of his older brother. He said that seeing his brother “able to drive around with his friends or to their houses in late senior year definitely made [him] want to have [a license] as soon as possible,” and “have the same experiences and freedom.”

Ultimately, every student’s personal preferences for their commute should be the determining factor in getting a license in high school or waiting it out. Living in NYC, however, undoubtedly provides a reliable alternative that all THHS students can rely on in one way or another. After all, the MTA system is “so extensive,” Tina said. She added that at this point, “a lot of people don’t even have to drive to get anywhere.”

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