July 11, 2022

Transportation options offer UChicago students many ways to get around the city

Transportation options offer UChicago students many ways to get around the city 

UChicago fosters a culture of safe transportation to get to know Chicago

For new University of Chicago students, learning how to navigate transportation throughout Hyde Park and other Chicago neighborhoods can help make the city feel like home. The University offers a variety of free options for students to get around Hyde Park and explore the broader Chicago community, including free shuttles, Lyft rides, buses and trains. University staff members and mentors also can help students learn about safe transportation practices.

Giving students the chance to experience the vibrancy of a city like Chicago – the diversity of people, opportunities, and experiences – is one of the major goals of creating a wide variety of safe transportation options for students. 

Many students in the College have their first experiences with Chicago transportation through their Residential Houses during Orientation. Mary and Gregg Wildenberg, Resident Heads of Cathey House in Renee Granville Grossman Commons, help their residents learn how to stay safe and navigate Hyde Park and beyond during Orientation Week.

“Our students are adults that are transitioning into independence,” Mary Wildenberg explained. “As Resident Heads, we're helping fill the gap as they go from living with their parents to independence, and assisting with life skills along the way. I feel that learning how to live in a big city and travel around safely is a big part of their growth here at the University.” 

According to Wildenberg, Cathey House upperclassmen provide key peer-to-peer support when it comes to learning about local destinations and how to get to them.

“Every year we have our Orientation Aides put up posters of commonly visited places, whether it's Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or the public library,” she said. “These big posters hang up in our House lounge, demystifying the directions and making these like commonly visited locations somewhere students can easily access.”

Many of these destinations are accessible by UChicago shuttle. UGo shuttles have daytime and nighttime routes and make getting to class, the gym, the grocery store, or local restaurants easy and safe. All students, and anyone with a UChicago ID or a UChicago Medicine ID, can present their card to use these shuttles.

How to use UGo Shuttles

  • Use the TransLoc app to check the shuttles’ locations and plan a route within the Hyde Park neighborhood and nearby areas.
  • Remember to stay alert while waiting outside at a shuttle stop. For nighttime service, shuttles can be hailed at any corner.
  • Present your UChicago ID when boarding. Anyone with a UChicago ID may use the shuttles.
  • Listen to the automated stop alerts. Pull the cord or speak to the driver to indicate your stop. For nighttime service, shuttles can stop at any corner.
  • UGo Shuttles have daytime and nighttime routes as well as special shuttles that have service to the South Loop and the Red Line Arts block. Explore these options here.

For evening and late night trips around the UChicago campus and surrounding neighborhoods, College, graduate, and professional students can sign up for free rides through Lyft Ride Smart

How to use Lyft Ride Smart

  • All enrolled students can access 10 late-night Lyft rides (up to $15 per ride) per month within the service area.
  • Students can sign up for Lyft Ride Smart via the invitation sent to all students through their UChicago emails. Once signed up, free rides within the designated service area are automatically applied to the student’s Lyft account and are visible under “Promos.”
  • Remember to confirm the driver’s name and license plate number before entering the vehicle.
  • The University has made this program available 7 evenings per week, from 5:00 p.m until 4 a.m. through the 2022-2023 academic year. 

When it comes to building skills to safely navigate the city more broadly, the Wildenbergs lead a trip downtown early in O-Week.

“The whole intention of the O-Week trip is to inform the students how to safely get downtown and to build confidence for those who don't have experience on public transportation or in larger cities, because we have students from all over the world,” Mary Wildenberg said. “Our first trip downtown is to get to Millennium Park and take a picture at the Bean.”

From there, Cathey House students break off into smaller groups under the guidance of upperclassmen Orientation staff and Resident Assistants. Over the course of this trip, students learn how to use the public transportation U-Passes granted to all students in the College, how to map their routes, how to maintain safe practices for public transportation, and who to contact if they need a helping hand. Students are encouraged to travel in groups, keep their eyes on their surroundings–not their phones–and take extra precautions during nighttime hours.

How to use CTA buses and trains

  • Use the RTA trip planner app or Google Maps to plan route and departure time.
  • Remember to stay alert at stops and platforms.
  • UChicago College students tap U-Pass for free fares on all CTA buses and trains; other riders must pay applicable fares except on buses #171 and #172, which service Hyde Park and are free to those with a UChicago ID.
  • Watch and listen for stop notices to help you reach your destination.

For Wildenberg, there is a great value in connecting with the city and visiting different places by public transportation, and she always aims to share those experiences with her students.

“You get such direct access to people and culture and diversity,” she said. “The opportunity to live in a city like this and to have direct connection with people who aren't exactly like us is, to me, the lifeblood of why students come here.”