Hey, UT freshmen: Here’s how to get around Austin — for free

Nicole Stuessy

Getting around Austin without a car can be difficult, and with more than 80 bus routes, navigating the CapMetro bus system can be confusing for new students.

CapMetro is free with a student ID, and SURE Ride provides students with free Lyfts home from main campus from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Lonny Stern, the special projects coordinator for CapMetro, said he recommends students download the CapMetro app to learn the bus system.

“You can trip plan on it, you can buy tickets on it and you can see next departure information,” Stern said. “We also have open data, so for whatever wayfinding apps you use, such as Apple Maps or Google Maps, you can see the transit instructions.”

For students living on campus looking to make a grocery run to HEB, they should take route 10, Stern said.

“Route 10 runs on San Jacinto by the stadium and also on Red River,” Stern said. “It will take you to the Hancock Center and it will take you to the Mueller HEB. Other routes will take you to other grocery stores.”

Route 20 goes to the airport. To go to Zilker Park, students should take route 803, Stern said.

For returning students, CapMetro added changes to routes as part of their “Cap Remap.” 

“Route 20 used to go by the stadium, but we moved it to The Drag because if you are going to the airport, it’s a lot easier to make that connection on The Drag,” Stern said. “We removed one of the UT shuttles, the (653), which used to go on Red River, but now the 10 is doing that.”

Stern said other changes impacting UT students include route 18 and route 5. 

“Route 18 used to turn in by the Six Pack, but now you have to catch it on MLK, and the best place to catch it would be at the Blanton,” Stern said. “Route 5 used to go through Speedway and come down to Dean Keeton and then The Drag, but now the 5 stays on Lamar.”

When buses are not as available, SURE Ride allows students to order a free Lyft ride home from campus, said Blanca Gamez, assistant director of Parking and Transportation Services.

“Whether you’re in the library working in groups on projects or attending an event that is happening here on campus, the University is very much alive and thriving past 11 p.m.,” Gamez said. “SURE Ride is set up to where it will provide you with a free ride home from campus only.”

To receive the free ride through Lyft, students must sign up for SURE Ride through the Parking and Transportation website, Gamez said.

“If you go the SURE Ride website … it will show you exactly how to register for the program,” Gamez said. “Any student can sign up as long as they are actively enrolled.”

Nursing sophomore Marian Hamilton said she got the hang of the bus system after getting lost a few times as a freshman.

“Don’t be afraid to get lost,” Hamilton said. “You do have your phone, and you can always call an Uber or call someone to help you figure out where you are. Just go do it.”