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Caltech & Walkability

This post starts a category where I talk about random Caltech related things. Hopefully I don’t break any rules. And if I do, hopefully no one reads these until after I graduate.


This post is about Caltech and walkability. Walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. It is also a great song by Way Yes; you should check it out. Caltech has an extremely small campus that houses an extremely small number of undergraduates.


The Olive Walk, where most of Caltech's undergrad housing is (red square on map)

More specifically, the campus is a square whose diagonal can be walked in about 8 minutes, and we have less than 1000 undergrads on campus. Some students see this as a bug, some as a feature. It’s not as impressive or grand as a Stanford or a Berkeley, and we don’t have the sprawling facilities that those campuses offer. But we can also get to any point on campus with extreme ease. In fact, from any of the houses on campus, it takes about 2-5 minutes to walk to class. Further, all the student housing is located no more than 5 minutes apart, with most of them situated adjacently. This can bring the walk times down to 1 minute at most! No student here denies that this is incredibly convenient. However, this convenience has a somewhat unintended consequence: students can become incredibly lazy.


A map highlighting Caltech's undergrad housing and the distance of one Avery

I'd say the PCT is 10, maybe 11 Averys. Man, that Cheryl sure strayed.

As I was saying, most of the student houses are right next to each other. There is, however, one exception: Avery house. This house is “one Avery” away from the other houses. To brave the journey to Avery is a veritable trek for Caltech students, only to be tried under the most dire of circumstances. For example, a Caltech undergrad might hike “one Avery” to search for help to a particularly hard problem set, to get free food, or perhaps to attend the infamous “ab night.” It is certainly the rare occasion when one voluntarily undergoes a trip to Avery.

This is not a knock on Avery house. All the houses are alright. It is merely an observation on the extreme endurance one must possess in order to walk “one Avery.” I shudder to even think of those brave souls that attempt the walk to off-campus housing.

Closing Remarks

Thus, the small size of campus, which should in fact encourage students to explore their surroundings, often has the opposite effect. If you’re picturing a bubble surrounding the Caltech campus, then you’ve got the right idea. Still, on weekends, there are those who venture out to find nourishment. The ritual flock to food usually happens on Lake St., where venerable establishments such as Chipotle and Panda Express hold their sway. But that’s for another post.