Getting to and Around Campus!
As you may or may not know, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is located in east-central Illinois (a few hours away from Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis) in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana. Champaign-Urbana is a relatively large area to explore. If you’re coming to school here, exploring is a must. But first, you need to get here! This is a breakdown of how to get to school, how to make your way around, and how to head home again.
Getting to Campus (and Going Home!)
Your parents may have helped you move in, but getting home for a weekend or for fall break might mean saving your parents the hassle of coming to pick you up. Students commonly take the bus, take the train, or get a ride home from a friend. Assuming your friend with a car isn’t around, I’d advise:
Inter-city buses are probably the most popular way to get on and off campus. Peoria Charter Coach and Suburban Express both run from campus to the Chicago suburbs, Chicago itself, and O’Hare International Airport. Greyhound also services Champaign and goes to Decatur, Springfield, St. Louis, Chicago, and a number of Chicago suburban stops as well. Buses pick up students all over campus and the Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign. It’s a decent way to go to and from campus because most buses are equipped with wifi and bathrooms on board. However, it’s still not as convenient as getting a ride home from a friend, and the buses are sometimes victim to traffic or other delays.
- Make sure to leave extra time if you’re going to the airport and have a plane to catch.
- If you have a lot of dirty laundry, devote an entire suitcase to your laundry bag. Most buses don’t allow you to put a laundry bag in the luggage hold of the bus.
- Make sure to buy bus tickets sooner rather than later if you’re looking to go home for a break or a long weekend—tickets will sell out fast!
- If you’re living in a residence hall, bus companies like to flood mailboxes with coupons, which can make a big difference in cost. Look out for them! A round trip is anywhere from $25 to $55 depending on which bus company you take.
The Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign includes an Amtrak station. The Amtrak takes you into Chicago’s Union Station and stops in Chicago suburbs like Homewood. It’s a relatively affordable option and often a quicker way to get home than the bus.
Maybe a Plane
Most people don’t even realize Champaign-Urbana has an airport, but we do! Willard Airport is a regional airport that flies to over 175 cities. I know someone who flew out of Willard into Washington, D.C. this past school year. It’s an option worth investigating if you’re an out-of-state student because it could save you that 3-hour bus trip to O’Hare.
Getting Around Campus
Now that you’ve arrived by plane, train, or automobile in C-U, there’s the matter of getting around. I think the transportation types people favor most are probably just walking or taking the bus, but I’m going to try and address just about everything I can think of.
Like I said before, this is a very popular way to get around. Sometimes foot traffic on campus gets a little bit like expressway traffic, especially on the Quad between classes. Our campus has sidewalks anywhere you could possibly need a sidewalk and crosswalks with walk buttons that talk to you (they’ll yell “Wait!” at you if the walk sign isn’t on, which can be a little jarring).
- Be a good pedestrian! Pay attention to bikes and buses and cars. It’s easy to get into the mindset of “whatever, they’ll stop for me,” but accidents happen.
Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD) is every Illinois student’s best friend. Busses run until about 3 a.m. during the school year (minus the occasional holiday) and start again around 7 a.m. Their routes cover campus and the C-U area. Students pay a small fee that allows us to simply show our i-cards (student IDs) to get on any bus. Busses with on-campus stops designated with a little orange and yellow “i” don’t require payment or an i-card, but off-campus stops do.
- If you ever lose your i-card and receive a temporary i-card from your residence hall front desk, bus drivers won’t accept it and you’ll have to pay to ride the bus.
- Get a bus app from your smartphone’s app store. Illinois students created bus apps with route information, maps, and live bus updates a few years ago, and they’re all available for free for you to choose from.
Having a car on campus is definitely not necessary because we have such good public transportation here, but if you do, it can be really convenient. However, it opens up the whole matter of parking. Parking is an important expense to consider, so think through whether it’s really worth it to have a car on campus (especially if you’re someone living in a residence hall).
We’re a pretty green campus, and we have a lot of bike paths. Oftentimes a sidewalk is split in half—half for cyclists and half for pedestrians. Something you might not be used to if you’re not from an urban area is abiding by vehicle laws on a bike. Be sure to read up on them if you plan on biking on campus. The police will pull you over and potentially ticket you if you break the law.
- Pay attention to pedestrians! Bike/pedestrian accidents do happen.
- Register your bike. It’s an easy, online process and can help deter theft, which leads me to my next point …
- Get a good bike lock! U-locks are the kind I see most often.
Longboarding and skateboarding are probably more popular than rollerblading as ways to get to class. Some people even use scooters. A good rule of thumb is to just be careful and considerate if you’re taking a less conventional mode of transportation to class.
Hoverboards were recently banned from inside any university-owned facility. You’re allowed to ride them outside on university property, but you can’t bring them inside any buildings (so you can’t really ride your hoverboard to class). Just something to keep in mind.
Uber came to the university relatively recently, and there have always been taxis in the area. You can commonly catch regular taxis at the Illinois Terminal. I don’t find taxis to be a very common way to get around campus.
Sometimes near the Bardeen Quad (or the Engineering Quad, as it’s more commonly known), you can catch engineering students rolling race cars down the street. Race cars? Not such a common mode of transportation, but it would be cool if they were.
The bottom line is: You have a lot of transportation options, and you’ll find what works best for you!