Quick campus update: leaves are falling, its chilly, and it’s almost HALLOWEEN!
I wanted to loop you guys in on something I’m trying to actively do as the seasons transition. I normally bike everywhere I go. Like everywhere, to and from work (which is off campus), class, meetings, and the mall. I love biking, and it literally beats all other means of travel in terms of time. But it’s getting chilly, my tires are mad thin, and I can’t really ride in snow or cold weather.
This has been a difficult process for me because I live 2 blocks off the east side of campus. I have 3 bus stops near my apartment, so access to a bus hasn’t been the struggle—its that timing. I’m so used to leaving my house 10 minutes before class because I can bike there in 5. Now with this cold, I can either walk or take the bus. I’ve been slowly trying to transition my time schedule to accommodate for the longer travel time but this is not easy.
For example, I have a 9:30 a.m. class in the Education building. Its about a 30-minute walk, 15-minute bus ride plus 5-minute walk, OR an 8-minute bike ride. With this extra travel time I have reconsider whether I come home for lunch or not and how fast I move in the morning. Overall, its not really that big of a deal but I just wanted to tell this story to bring up the topic of getting around campus.
As you can probably guess, I would say walking is the most common way most people get around campus. I know campus is huge and that tends to scare people. In reality, you’re only going to have classes in the buildings more central to campus. The Bardeen, Main, and South Quads house most of the buildings you will have classes in. All other buildings are right behind those. You really won’t need to stress much about having more than 15-20 minute walks to get where you need (and that’s at the high end!).
Alright, so there’s walking. The only worry you need to have about walking is when you are making your class schedule. Since, for me at least, walking is the slowest mode of transit, I always have to keep in mind the 10-minute passing periods. So since you only have 10 minutes to get to back-to-back classes, you may want to avoid scheduling yourself from having to go from one end of campus to the other. For example, you have a 10-10:50 a.m. lecture at Foellinger Auditorium and you have the option of choosing a discussion section that meets in the Chemistry Annex (5 min walk) or Engineering Hall (~8min walk). Which are you going to choose?
The one thats closer to the building you’re already in. This is a big pro tip for winter so you don’t have to be outside in the cold for long (or summer if you don’t like the heat). I’ll write a blog soon on tips I have for picking the perfect schedule, but I do have a disclaimer: sometimes you don’t have a choice but to pick a class where the building is super far away and may take you longer to get to. I had this happen to me before, where one required class was in the Armory and the other was in Rodger Adams Laboratory. So in these situations, it’s important to let your professors and TA’s know that you will be late most days. This will let them know that you aren’t being careless, but instead have a long commute. Normally professors are okay with this and might have a request that you sit in the back to not disturb the class or something.
What are other modes of transportation on campus?
I’m going to rank these in the amount of time it takes for ME to get somewhere. It may be shorter or longer for others.
Biking: Fast, Fun, and Reliable
Fun fact—the last I checked, the UIUC campus has over 9 miles of bike lane. Yup, that means no matter where you’re trying to go, there is most likely a bike path that can get you there. Also fun fact—there is a campus bike center. This place is awesome with helping people fix their bikes or even build one from scratch.
This is the fastest way I know how to get around. The campus is relatively flat, so the biggest hill you will encounter is on the Main Quad. There’re also places around campus that have basic bike tools to help you fix a quick thing here and there. Don’t fret about bike parking because it is outside every single building on campus—you just need a bike lock.
Walking: Soothing, Common, and Paced
Like I said before, walking is the most common way of getting anywhere on this campus. I already mentioned how to make sure this works with your schedule, so scroll up for a recap if you need one.
MTD: Anywhere, Everywhere, and Good Company
There’s a running joke on campus that you should always thank your bus driver, but is it really a joke? Our MTD bus drivers on campus are some of the most kindhearted people and WILL wait for you if they see you running for the bus. We should all be greeting and thanking them as much as we can!
I heard this statistic a while back, so don’t quote me on this: MTD was once ranked the 4th best public transit in the country. Again, old, but I’d believe it any day. The bus can take you ANYWHERE on and OFF campus. Need to go grocery shopping? Want to go on a date in downtown Champaign or Urbana? Want to visit a public library? Don’t want to walk to class because the polar vortex is back? MTD ALWAYS HAS YOUR BACK. There are bus stops everywhere and a handy dandy app that updates every minute to let you know how far the bus is. Included in your school fees is unlimited access to the bus—all you have to do is show the bus driver your iCard.
Should I bring my car to campus?
I cannot emphasize this enough, but cars are NOT necessary (in my opinion) if you are living in the residence halls. You may be thinking, “Well my class is far from my hall—I can drive there.” Actually, let’s break this down so you have a better understanding as to why a car on campus is a bad idea.
You cannot park outside your residence hall. How parking passes work is you pay for one, and you get an assigned parking lot. Not only are parking passes expensive (I’m not talking $90 expensive, I’m talking hundreds of dollars expensive), but the chances that you will get your residence hall’s parking lot is slim to none. Keep in mind, these parking spots aren’t going to other students but to faculty and staff that HAVE to drive to campus and need a place to park. Here is some perspective—my boss works in the NHB, his parking pass is for ISR, a 5-min walk from the building. But why, if the NHB has its own parking lot? Well, because available parking spots are limited, and if faculty and staff can’t get a spot in the building they work in, chances are not looking so good for a student.
This is not to say you won’t get a spot, because you will if you paid for a parking pass. Your spot will just be far from your residence hall.
2. Driving to Class
So let’s imagine you got a spot right outside your residence hall. Awesome! Can you use your car to drive to class? Theoretically yes, but where are you going to park your car? Your parking pass only works for the lot you are assigned to—all other lots are off-limits. Alright, so how about metered parking? Yeah, that works! I would be worried that if you drive everyday to all your classes, the price would rack up a bit, but it is technically an option. Warning: if you park in metered spots, what’s to say there is one available? Metered parking on campus is very much limited, so what if you don’t beat all the other students driving to class?
Also to keep in mind is the actual driving to class. You’re in a car, you’re obviously going to go faster than those walking, but are you really? I have seen cars stopped at a stop sign for 5 minutes because pedestrians just keep walking. There are 40-50K students on this campus. Now imagine a passing period. People will keep walking to get to class and do not care if it is technically your turn at the stop sign. Your predicted 5-min drive to class turns into a 15-minute drive because of people traffic. At that point, just walk and save the gas and meter money.
This is not to say that you should never bring a car to campus. If you ever decide to move out of the residence halls and live off campus in an apartment, cars are a great option. Again, not to drive to class, but to go grocery shopping or hang out with friends off campus. My roommate has a car in our house, and it’s awesome to have when we want to go home or get food off campus, but she doesn’t drive it to class for those many reasons.
This was a long one friends. I hope you got some insight on how to get around campus. I didn’t mention skateboards, rollerblades, or Heelys, but I would put those in the same category as a bike. Walk if you like walking, bike if you want most time efficiency, and bus if it’s cold or you don’t like walking.
This campus may be huge, but it’s very much manageable to get around in. Let me know if you guys have any other questions about transportation on and off campus!