BUSINESS

Oxford drivers say navigating crowded small town is challenging

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Backed up traffic on Oxford’s Square is a common sight on any day of the week, but especially during the school year. Photo by Christian Johnson.

Christian Johnson
Oxford Stories
ctjohns5@go.olemiss.edu

Oxford, Mississippi, with a population of 20,865, is a crowded city year round, but during the school year, another 21,260 students pack into the small town and drive its roads. This often proves challenging for drivers.

If you’ve ever driven through town on a Friday or Saturday night, you may have experienced gridlock. Gameday weekends are sometimes a nightmare for Lafayette County drivers, and parking is nearly impossible anywhere near the University of Mississippi campus.

“I can’t even count the number of times I’ve found myself in traffic for over 30 minutes, especially on game days,” said Oxford resident Maggie Jones. “Over the summer and even during breaks, it’s obvious students aren’t here because it’s just so much more easy to get around.”

Jones, 34, has lived in Oxford since she took a receptionist job when she was 23. She said she doesn’t hold a grudge against students because she was once one, but she now understands the viewpoint of older Oxford residents.

Driving down Jackson Avenue, one can observe a cacophony of emotions. including frustration and often road rage.

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Taylor Teal, 19, discusses her anger about Oxford’s traffic. Photo by Christian Johnson.

Ole Miss junior Taylor Teal is from a small town in Tennessee, and she’s never had to deal with traffic before moving to Oxford.

“It’s so stressful driving sometimes that I’ve actually just had someone else drive and taken the bus on numerous occasions,” she said. 

Teal said one of her friends has been in two wrecks since coming to UM. “To be fair, she may not be the safest driver on the road, but before she came, she had one car, and it didn’t have a single scratch.”

Parking around the city is so scarce that on any given weekend night, it’s a common to see students walking from campus to the Square. Uber and Lyft are thriving in Oxford.

Oxford resident Jennifer Ragins said she rarely goes out by herself and drives around town, but she’s aware of the traffic issues. “I’ve lived in Oxford for nearly 30 years, and it’s always been a pretty packed town during the semester, but I think it’s gotten worse over time,” she said. 

Ragins, 52, is retired and loves the UM community and students. She said she won’t necessarily place blame on students, but she recognizes that the university is a major part of the traffic issue in Oxford. “The school doubles the population of Oxford,” she said. “Obviously that is going to have some repercussions, but it really does throw off the traffic. On game day weekends, … most of the time, I just stay in and avoid it.”

UM freshman Emily Johnson said she grew up in St. Louis, but never had to deal with taxis often. “Especially when it’s hot outside, nobody wants to walk to and from the Square on a Saturday night, so most of the time, my friends and I usually split the cost of an Uber,” she said.

Johnson said Uber has become a way of life for many of her friends. “It’s obviously just a tool to get around, but we’ve actually made friends with a lot of the drivers and talk with them the entire time,” she said.

UM student Emma Jane Field agrees about the problem with Oxford traffic. “I thought Louisiana was bad until I got here,” she said. “Nobody knows how to drive. The roads are too small, and the way traffic lights are set up make it impossible for traffic to move smoothly in Oxford.”

Field, 20, hails from Baton Rouge, and while she loves Oxford, it is often more frustrating than any of her classes to drive through Oxford on a Friday afternoon.

“The beauty and hometown feel of Oxford is ruined sometimes with the sometimes Boston-tier traffic,” said UM sophomore Julia Sheehan, who was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston. Though she doesn’t drive here, she often “feels the secondhand anger for those who are driving.”

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