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Getting to Campus: A Guide for Off-Campus Students

Getting to Campus: A Guide for Off-Campus Students


Are you thinking about living off campus next year, but aren’t sure how to get to class? Don’t worry, because Heels Housing has all the information and tips to help get you to and from campus.

UNC Transportation Services

The UNC Transportation & Parking Department offers a variety of transportation options to help you get around and off campus.

The Commuter Alternative Program (CAP) is a free service offered by UNC specifically for students and employees. It involves a number of transportation options for commuters, and members can pre-select their preferred methods of transportation for each school year or semester. CAP is also a useful resource for learning how to use transportation options on campus including buses, carpool services and bikes.

Drive a Car

Of course, one way to get to campus is by driving your own car. If you are able to bring a car to school and have parking where you live, that’s great. With a car, you have the option to either park on campus or use the UNC Park & Ride service.

For on-campus parking, there are 10 lots available with annual permits. Pricing varies depending on the lot. For the remainder of the 2018-2019 school year, lots are free to park without a permit weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends. However, starting August 15, weeknight permits for these times will be required to park. Permits are also available for students with motorcycles, scooters or mopeds.

If you prefer not to park on campus, the Park & Ride service gives you the option to park at one of nine off-campus lots and take a Chapel Hill Transit bus to campus. Permits for this service are provided through CAP for an annual fee, and students can manage and pay for permits through the ParkMobile app.

Liezel Alipio uses Park & Ride to commute from her off-campus home near Durham.

“What I like about the Park & Ride is that it’s one of the cheaper options for parking near campus and the buses to the lots run late,” Alipio said. “The lots I use are usually well lit at night which makes me feel safer about coming back after daylight.”

She said her commute to the lot is short, and the length of the bus ride depends on the time of day.

“The fastest commute I take is from the 725 MLK Blvd. lot to campus. The bus ride only takes five to 10 minutes,” she said.

Alipio recommends that students living off-campus use the Park & Ride service if they have a car but don’t want to use on-campus parking.  

“The best advice I could give is to map out where you are in regards to the available Park & Ride lots to make sure you’re parking at a lot that can take you to campus at ease,” Alipio said. “Before classes start, make the time to travel to the lots you plan on using and always have a bus app handy on you, just in case.”

If you don’t have your own car, you can still catch a ride with someone who does. If you can’t carpool with friends, UNC offers a Rideshare program with ShareTheRideNC that gives students access to carpooling and vanpooling with other students for an annual fee. UNC also offers student Zipcar services for temporary use at an hourly rate.  

Catch the Bus

The bus system can be a little daunting at first, but once you find a route that works for you, it’s super convenient and easy to use.

Junior Reina Kinnaly usually takes the bus to get from MLK Blvd. to campus. She said there are multiple buses that can get her to campus in 10 minutes or less, but she typically takes whichever brings her to a stop closest to her classes.

“I chose this method because it’s free and convenient,” Kinnaly said. “There’s a bus that can take you just about everywhere.”

Kinnaly said she recommends using the bus, but students moving off campus should consider how accessible the bus system will be for them.

“I would definitely recommend that when considering to move off campus, keep in mind what bus routes are near your potential home,” Kinnaly said. “There are a lot of routes, but there isn’t one for each place of living and if there is one, it may very well be a mile up the road.”

To figure out which bus system works for you, it’s important to note their different routes.  

Chapel Hill Transit

This Chapel Hill bus service has fare-free routes that go throughout Chapel Hill and Carrboro. There are a number to choose from based on where you’re coming from or going, so be sure to check out the bus route schedule. CHT buses are also bike-friendly and equipped with racks that can hold up to two bikes, free of charge.

Chatham Transit Express

The CT bus system has routes from Chapel Hill to Pittsboro and Siler City that run Monday through Friday. While the service has a fare, UNC students and employees can be exempted with a CT pass from CAP.

Go Triangle

Go Triangle offers routes connecting Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and other areas in the Triangle seven days a week. This system also has a fare, but UNC students and employees living off campus can avoid the fee by obtaining a GoPass through CAP.

There’s an App for That

If you’re still confused with how the bus system works –no need to fear. TransLoc Rider and NextBus are easy-to-use services you can access right from your phone. Simply input your starting point and destination, and these apps will provide suggested routes including which bus stops to go to and which buses to take.

Kinnaly recommends that students use these bus apps to minimize confusion while getting used to the bus schedules.

“The Chapel Hill Transit website has a map of the stops, but it’s a little confusing,” Kinnaly said. “It’s more convenient to have it real-time on your phone.”

For any additional questions about bus systems, students can refer to CAP’s website or visit the Public Safety Building on South Campus.

Ride Your Bike

For students who live a little closer to campus, biking is a cheap, convenient and eco-friendly method of transportation. In order to bring your bike to campus, you need to have it registered through UNC. Registration is free, and cyclists get a permit, 50 percent off a U-lock from UNC Student Stores and access to campus bike racks and repair stations.

Luckily for cyclists, the town of Chapel Hill is in the process of becoming even more bike-friendly with the Rosemary Street Bike Lane project. Scheduled to be completed by 2020, this project is working to construct new bike lanes and off-road paths to make roads safer for cyclists.

ETP (Estimated Time to Pit)

Not sure which method of transportation is best for you? We’ve calculated a few ETPs to give you an idea of how far from campus you really are.


If you’re headed to campus from Carrboro, we recommend biking, driving or taking the bus. Biking will take about 12 minutes, driving will take about 10 minutes and riding the bus will take about 25 minutes.

Rosemary Street

Rosemary Street is a lot closer to campus, so walking, biking and driving are all good options. Getting from East or West Rosemary Street to the pit is about a 20-minute walk, 5-minute bike ride and seven-minute drive, depending on traffic.   

MLK Blvd.

If you live along MLK Blvd., getting to the Pit will take about 25 minutes walking, eight minutes biking, 20 minutes riding the bus and eight minutes driving depending on traffic.


If you live south of Carrboro around Weatherhill, your ETP is a 10-minute drive, 15-minute bike or 25-minute bus ride.

Downing Creek

If you live south of campus near Downing Creek, driving to campus will take 10 minutes, biking will take about 20 minutes and riding the bus will take about 25 minutes.

Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.

If you live somewhere north of campus along Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., driving or taking the bus is probably your best bet. The drive to the pit is about 13 minutes depending on traffic, while a bus ride takes about half an hour.

Wherever you choose to live, there’s always a way to get back to campus. If you’re still looking for off-campus housing, there are plenty of great options in the Chapel Hill area. Check out our current listings to see what’s still available.



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