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3 Practical Transportation Options for Today’s College Student

For many young people, heading off to college comes with a lot of excitement, but also some burning questions to consider. In fact, many college-bound teens may ponder the following:

  • Where will I live?
  • Will it be difficult to make new friends?
  • Will I like my classes?
  • What the heck is a quad, anyway?

However, one of the more practical questions should include which mode of transportation you plan to use during your freshman year and beyond. Indeed, what was convenient and worked from the comfort of home may not be a practical or affordable on-campus option. Here are three standard modes of transportation that can help you decide the best option(s).

1. Car

A car is the most convenient and useful mode of transportation, but it may not always be the most practical on-campus option. This is especially true when you’re trying to find a reliable place to park and spending hundreds of dollars on a parking pass. Still, you should inquire about specific on-campus parking policies and perks. Some schools don’t allow freshman to have cars, but offer that opportunity for upperclassmen.

Next, consider your school’s location. While some colleges and universities may be better suited for cars, owning and driving one at urban campuses like NYU or USC may become more of a burden rather than a nice perk. Additionally, think about how your campus is situated and where you’ll be living. Is the distance far enough that you’ll need a vehicle to get from home to campus or to travel between classes? Is there ample parking available? Will you get bombarded with too many ride requests?

If you think having a vehicle is the right option for you, make a budget that includes all of the costs associated with owning and operating one on campus. In particular, make sure to budget for the following:

  • Monthly car payments
  • Insurance
  • Gas money
  • Repair costs
  • Replacement parts (like a new set of tires)
  • Routine maintenance (oil changes, fluid replacement, etc.)

2. Bicycle

For urban campuses, a bicycle might be the most practical mode of transportation. In fact, many colleges offer free or discounted bicycle-sharing programs. Knowing that, riding a bike might be the quickest, most efficient way to get around, particularly on closed campuses that don’t allow cars.

But you’ll still want to consider the distance between your dorm or apartment and where your classes will be held. Indeed, riding a bike on campus might be advantageous if your place of residence, nearby amenities (restaurants, grocery stores and other retailers) and the actual college campus are all located within a few miles.

Just be sure there are safe routes for bicyclists to ride near your campus. If your school is located somewhere that experiences snow, ice and overall cold temperatures during the winter, you’ll also want to consider whether there is affordable backup transportation on days when riding your bike just won’t cut it.

If a bicycle sounds like a great option, consider the following costs when putting together a budget:

  • Bicycle
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • A dependable lock and helmet

3. Public Transportation

If you’re attending college in a big city, public transit might be your best option to get around. But before you decide to commit to using only city buses, subways or light rail, make sure to map out your routes. For example, Google Maps is a great resource to determine if there are nearby routes to get you from your dorm or apartment to class in a reasonable amount of time.

Of course, if you decide to use public transit, make sure to check out the different pricing tiers to determine the most cost-effective options. Additionally, think about how often you’ll be using a particular service and whether investing in a pass makes good financial sense. But you might also want to ask around, as some colleges and universities offer free or discounted public transit passes.

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