Trains, Planes, and Automobiles…All the Transportation You Can Think Of
Freshmen who bring their cars will quickly learn that parking during the fall and spring is at a premium, and will most often not want to move their cars should they nab a great spot. Still, many will insist on the convenience of having their car if they want to go to a store off-campus and not want to carry heavy belongings back to their dorms (if that’s where they are living.) Both my daughters brought their cars but, aside from the occasional drive home, relied mostly on public transportation to get around town because it was easier. For parking information should your students bring their car, click here.
Bicycles and Scooters
HaveUHeard that part of the activity and service fee you pay goes into a fund used by the student government to provide services for all students? One of these services is free bike repair. SG Bike Repair is located on the ground floor of the Reitz Union. Some items will be available for sale including lights, tires, locks, chains, and cables. Many UF students use their bicycles or scooters in lieu of a car. It is strongly advised that your students not only register these modes of transportation with the University Police but that they also familiarize themselves with the bicycle or scooter laws and rules.
Bicycles must have lamps on the front of the bicycle that provides visibility for 500 feet and a tail reflector/lamp visible from 600 feet for night time. Students may not wear earbuds while riding. Other rules your student will want to be aware of may be found here.
Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV) is the major local airport if flying is your means of transportation. There are five major airlines that service Gainesville. They are American, Delta, Silver, U.S. Airways and United. Because it is a regional airport, the number of flights in and out are neither plentiful nor inexpensive. And — from personal experience with both daughters — you are much more at the mercy of delays, unexpected cancellations, and general travel snafus just because you have so few options when things don’t go according to plan. As a result, many out-of-state students (as well as those traveling during the school year) will drive to and from Jacksonville, Florida or Orlando, Florida for more flight travel options. It is approximately an hour and a half drive to the Jacksonville airport and an hour and fifty minutes to Orlando’s.
Flying out of a larger airport means you have to consider the cost of getting yourself to that airport, a cost which could then also include long-term parking fees. For those that live in or want to travel to South Florida, there are unfortunately no direct Gainesville flights to or from West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale International airports. The only non-stop is to Miami International Airport and those fares can be costly.
If your travels do involve flying in and out of Gainesville itself, it might help to know that Bus 25 takes people from the commuter lot to the airport. Bus 26 takes people from the downtown bus station to the airport, and Bus 39 takes students from Santa Fe to the airport. It’s also a relatively inexpensive ride via Lyft or Uber.
Other travel options include taking a bus or renting a car if your student does not have one at school. Red Coach brands itself as a luxury bus line with complimentary wi-fi (additional fee), no fee for the first two bags, reclining seats, standard power outlets, and other amenities. The bus does make frequent stops so plan for the time being substantially longer than if you were to take your own vehicle. Megabus provides a similar service, including free wi-fi and at-seat power outlets, at comparable pricing.
GMG Transport is another bus line that offers transportation throughout the state of Florida. Some of their buses include complimentary wi-fi but they are more of an economical alternative.
And, of course, Greyhound is an affordable option too. They are not our parents’ bus service, having upgraded their buses; more than 85% of their buses are either brand new or recently refurbished inside and out. Onboard features include free wi-fi, extra legroom and power outlets.
If all else fails, there is always Amtrak for travel home or back to school. The Rosa Parks transfer station (700 SE 3rd St, Gainesville) to catch an Amtrak train is only about a 5-minute car ride from UF, so at least that part of the trip is quick and convenient. There is the option for both carry-on and check-in baggage (at certain stations) but they have wi-fi so students can study (or binge-watch their favorite shows).
For students looking to either get home for a weekend or needing a ride back, there is a UF Ride Board Facebook group. Once again dating myself, when I went to UF there was a bulletin board with tear-off strips for those looking for rides home. Even with today’s social media quick-connectivity, I would still actually counsel speaking with the person before agreeing to a ride. And be sure to have your student share the specific travel information with either you or the person waiting for them at the other end of their travels. Basic safety still and always rules. There are, however, a lot of students using this board and — if it helps — parents can access the site and its information as well. There is also a large Facebook group called FSU-USF-UCF-UF carpool with over 9700 members. Students from those colleges post about where they are going or if they need a ride.
Whether it’s your own student or a fellow student driving to or from school, it’s important for them to know that in the event of any type of car problem (broken down, flat tire, etc.), they should call Road Rangers at *347. Road Rangers will come to assist them for free. Another thing to keep in mind as your student hits the road is the amount of traffic on those roads at many of the same times that they, too, will be traveling. Especially when driving back after a long holiday weekend (Thanksgiving, Winter break, Spring Break), there is a lot of traffic, and a normal drive is often extended by hours. Options to consider to optimize safe and timely travel including having your student leave a few days prior to avoid this traffic when possible. (Yes, parents, while you hate to see them go, you’ll have to agree that it is far more comforting to know that they are not going to be on the road all day stuck in traffic.) If their schedule does put them on the road at those highly-trafficked times, another option is to encourage them to safely utilize one of the various travel apps that allows them to plan an alternate route. A scenic route with a few more miles to it may end up meaning less time on the road and a safer alternative. And don’t forget gas cards whenever there’s a gift-giving event on your calendar. That’s just one more payment to the Parental-Peace-of-Mind account!
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