It's no secret that winter is upon us in Ann Arbor. With windchill already reaching single digits, I'm already beginning to dread my .7 mile walk to the Diag every morning. Thank you, Oxford Shuttle.
That being said, why make students walk to class when a warmer alternative already exists? Growing up in Ann Arbor, I've always known about the University's infamous tunnel system. "Tunnel Bob" has remained an anonymous legend that my parents have always told tales about. They spoke of UMich legends such as hidden swimming pools and jarred organs under the Medical School.
While it doesn't surprise me, it does remind me a lot of the Harry Potter computer games I used to play in elementary school. Once, someone even used the tunnels to shut off the hot water supply to the President's house. All legends aside, it still remains a mystery to me as why the school hasn't put time into renovating and adapting the tunnels to be put to good use today.
Currently, there are six miles of tunnels branching all the way from the Medical School campus to the IM Building. This means that if the system was made usable by students, I could have avoided walking through the Markley wind-tunnel to class over 100 times this past winter. The tunnels are now being used for maintenance and heating, allowing workers to safely travel through the tunnels. So why doesn't the University invest more in this idea?
Last January alone, the lowest windchill temperature clocked in at minus 40 degrees. It also snowed for more than 40 days continuously (MLive). Not only is it extremely uncomfortable for students to travel to and from class, but it's also extremely dangerous under these conditions. Since there are only so many days in the academic calendar, it is impossible to cancel classes as often as it seems necessary. Renovation of the tunnel system could be a viable solution to the dreaded winter commute.
Smaller private institutions with much smaller budgets have implemented tunnel systems as a way to avoid the lake effect winter climate. Concordia University in Wisconsin has four miles of tunnels underneath their campus currently (FOX News). I also know that there are countless Canadian universities that have made tunnel systems their main pathway for winter transportation as well. As one of the coldest campuses in the Midwest, it would make sense for the University of Michigan to follow suit.
However, there obviously could be deterrents to opening these tunnels once again to the public. I don't even want to imagine some of the strange crime alert emails that would ensue. There would definitely need to be some kind of security system set in place and probably staff hired in order to keep the tunnels safe for students. If other schools can implement these kinds of systems effectively, then I don't doubt ours could as well.