How to get around campus on public transportation
August 24, 2017
Navigating the University’s campus can seem like a daunting task. The campus takes up 1,783 acres, and the buildings are sprawled over three quads. This doesn’t even include the broader scope of Champaign and Urbana.
If you don’t have a car on campus — or don’t want to deal with daily traffic and parking fees — public transit is the way to go. Luckily, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District operates 20 bus routes, all free with your i-card.
The main routes that run through campus are the 22 Illini, 13 Silver, 5 Green, 2 Red, 1 Yellow, 10 Gold and 12 Teal. Depending on where you live on campus and where the majority of your classes are, one of these buses will take you where you need to go.
One of the best ways to figure out which bus you should take is by using a trip planner.
The CU Buses app for iOS is a CUMTD staff pick, and it’s free! The app uses your location to show you which stops are closest, and you can see which buses are coming to that stop and how far away they are. For more precise directions, use the “navigation” tab. You can select a stop or enter an address, and the app will find the best bus route, including walking time and any transfers.
Transit for CUMTD is the best option for Android. It has color-coded bus times and a similar navigation feature to CU Buses, and it includes an alarm when a bus is nearing the stop. This is ideal to help you know if you need to rush or wait for the next bus.
If you don’t have an Apple or Android, you can use the STOPwatch website, which is available for mobile. It uses GPS tracking to see how far away the bus is. Some bus stops even have electronic signs that use STOPwatch to inform waiting riders. The CUMTD website also has a trip planner, which works best on a desktop but can be used with mobile.
Like all programs, these rely on the rider knowing where they need to go. Sometimes, the program might pick the “fastest” route, but it requires three transfers. It might just be quicker to cut across the Main Quad. In this case, it’s useful to be more familiar with the map.
Find the closest bus stops near where you’re living and find out which buses have service there. Then, map out your schedule and see which buses you need to take from class to class. This is where the navigation option or trip planner is most useful.
Regular service begins on Aug. 19, so if you’re unsure about your route, take a trial run before classes start on Aug. 28. This will help you get familiar with campus and where you need to go for class, plus you’ll have a better idea of how long it takes to get there.
Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you navigate the bus system.
Do I always need my i-card?
You don’t need to show your i-card at iStops. These special stops don’t require any identification and are located throughout campus and at ONE Illinois North, ONE Illinois South, Capstone Quarters and Campus Circle. The Yellow, Gold, Teal, Silver, Raven and Illini lines all have iStops, so you can get on any door of the bus.
If you’re not at an iStop, you should have your i-card out and ready to show the driver when you get on. Make sure you board at the front of the bus to ensure a quick stop.
Do the buses always run?
The buses run every day except designated holidays when classes are off: Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the fall holidays, and services are reduced during fall break. There are also some service disruptions during major area festivals, like the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, and some reroutes during football games. Make sure you check your bus route in advance.
I’m up late at the library. Can I take the bus home?
Bus pickups end between 3 and 5 a.m., so make sure you check a trip planner if you don’t want to walk across campus. If you miss the last bus, call SafeRides to take you home. It’s free, fast and most importantly, safe.
What’s a “hopper”?
Hopper and express buses will skip some less-used stops to make the trip faster. Make sure you check the Yellow, Gold, Orange and Green buses before you get on, or you might wind up in the wrong spot.
How often does a bus come?
The bus frequency depends on which bus you’re taking. For example, the Illini and Yellow buses come every 10 minutes. These are some of the most reliable, and if you miss your bus, you won’t be too late to class. Some buses come every 15 minutes, and some are more staggered. Check the schedule or your app ahead of time, and you’ll get an idea of which bus times are most consistent.
Riding the bus is the cheapest, fastest way to get around campus. It can seem difficult at first, but with planning and preparation, you’ll have no problem.
Lillian is a senior in Media.