Campus travel offers challenges, options for commuters

Courtney Lewis

Kristina Grand’s front door in Dinkytown opens to busy sidewalks, as her neighbors walk or bike to class. The streets near her apartment are jammed with commuter cars by 10 a.m.

“Trying to park your car anywhere is difficult, and getting around everyone can be a challenge,” Grand said.

For some, the obstacle is getting from one class to another. For others, just reaching campus is a strain. Whether traveling within campus or venturing outside of it, each semester brings new challenges for students trying to get around.

“There’s a little learning curve involved in the first week back,” said Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services. “Plan for extra time to get around campus.”

Catching the Bus

Baker recommends that commuters leave their cars at home.

Ten thousand students purchased U-Passes last spring semester. The cards provide students with unlimited rides on Metro Transit buses for $50 per semester.

University students frequently ride the number 16 bus along Washington Avenue and the number 3 bus to Dinkytown and along Como Avenue. Metro Transit buses also connect the University campus to the Minneapolis and St. Paul suburbs.

Once on campus, the University bus system offers free service to the public. The connector runs from the West Bank to East Bank via Washington Avenue, then to St. Paul on a private road. Circulators also run on each campus.

A limited-stop route introduced last year — which stops at Blegen Hall, Moos Tower, the Huron lots, and the St. Paul Student Center — will continue its service.

“The idea for that was to get a student from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ as quickly as possible,” Baker said.

Patrons will see four new, longer University buses in late September. The accordion-style buses can transport 60 seated passengers, or 100 people if some are standing. The current buses seat 40 people and accommodate an additional 20 standing passengers.

Baker said the longer buses will probably run the limited stop routes.

To map a trip on Metro Transit buses, visit www.metrotransit.org.

Taking the Car Pool Lane

For those unable to bus, Baker recommends carpooling for people who must travel by automobile.

There are four carpooling lots — two on the East Bank, one on the West Bank and one in St. Paul. The lots are reserved for carpoolers until noon each day. The rates are $1.75 each day, or $3.25 for single drivers.

“You’ll have a better chance of getting a parking spot if you get here early,” Baker said.

He said parking will be a challenge for those arriving for afternoon classes.

During poor weather or when running late, Grand said she’ll drive to the St. Paul campus instead of taking the bus.

I have extra cash, I’ll park in the parking lots,” Grand said. “Otherwise I’ll park on-street and walk over to class.”

But for people who need to park on campus every day, Baker said contracts are available through a lottery, though the lottery deadline for this semester has passed. The cost varies by location, but the lots average $200 a semester, with the cheapest contract at $95 a semester.

Overall, Baker said commuters should arrive early and allow enough time in case of traffic.

“Relax and be courteous,” Baker said. “Give the other guy a break.”

Riding Your Bike

Biking allows Grand to get from her home to classes quickly.

She said it generally works well, but she sometimes has problems finding a spot on the racks.

Grand said she learned from other bikers that a U-shaped lock is the most secure, but knows they can still be broken.

“I just pray that it doesn’t get stolen,” she said.

University police Capt. Steve Johnson said the U-lock is the hardest to defeat. He also recommends leaving nice bikes at home.

“If you think about how a bike thief operates, they’re looking for opportunity and the nicest bike,” Johnson said.

He suggested locking bikes in well-lit, high-traffic areas to discourage thieves.

Baker said students can rent an enclosed bike locker on campus for $75 a year or $6.25 a month.

Johnson also said it’s smart to register bikes with the state. For approximately $10, a license provides a permanent record of a bike’s serial number.

“The majority of bikes that are recovered after theft are those that are registered,” Johnson said.

Courtney Lewis welcomes comments at [email protected]