Classes aren’t always the most difficult part of a student’s day at Cal Poly – sometimes just getting to classes on time with one’s sanity intact is the hardest part.
And since Cal Poly has almost 20,000 students enrolled with just 6,621 parking spaces available, not everyone can drive to school. So students looking to preserve their attendance record, sanity and bank account must find alternate methods of transportation.
Walking is the easiest way. And it’s not only dorm-dwellers and those lucky people living right on Foothill Boulevard or Grand Avenue who can utilize this environmentally and waistline-friendly approach to getting to school.
Liberal studies junior Ilana Winter, who lived over two miles away campus last year, would walk to school when the weather was nice. “It only took about 35 minutes… not bad at all,” she said.
Biking is another great option for those who live within a few miles of campus. Over the last year San Luis Obispo has repaved and widened many bike lanes on main streets – including Foothill Boulevard, Madonna Road, Higuera Street and Johnson Avenue – in order to ensure the safety of bikers.
According to the University Police Department’s Web site, there are more than 2,000 bike rack spaces and 90 secure bike lockers available on campus.
Also, “57 percent of students and 33 percent of faculty/staff live within 5 miles of the Cal Poly campus; an easy bike commute,” according to the site.
Bike enthusiast and former industrial technology student Parker Milhous strongly advocates this method.
“Biking is the best… you don’t have to wait for anything, it’s probably the fastest way to get to school and you can pretty much ride right to your classroom door.”
He advises students to watch out for police and make sure to stay in designated bike lanes. Bikers must obey all street signs and can only wear a headphone in one ear, so no zoning out to your iPod while zooming through a stop sign.
For those too far away to walk or bike, taking the bus is another popular option. Sixty percent of the San Luis Obispo Transit riders were Cal Poly students, according to transit program manager John Webster. Many students ride the Regional Transit Authority buses as well.
Fares are free for students thanks to subsidization by the university, and bus lines run throughout the city or county, so nearly everyone has a bus stop within walking distance of their home. The last bus leaves Cal Poly at around 10 p.m., so even students with evening classes can utilize this option.
Mechanical engineering senior Ryan Boughey, who rode the bus to school last year when he lived five miles from campus, suggests planning your schedule carefully.
“The first week of school is always the busiest, and sometimes buses run late. Plan on catching the bus that runs a half-hour earlier than you would normally need that first week,” he said.
If the closest bus stop is too far to walk, civil engineering senior Smadar Barasch suggests biking to the bus stop since all San Luis Obispo transit busses are equipped with bike racks.
The county is presently in the process of switching over its old buses into new, low-emission hybrid vehicles, making your ride cleaner for the environment.
If none of these options work and you find yourself driving to school, here are some tips to make it easier:
Take early or later classes. Psychology senior Dain Dorsey found that he had the most problems trying to park after noon or before 4 p.m. During these hours, arrive at school mid-hour to give yourself plenty of time to find a spot.
Be persistent. Computer science senior Matthew Schlactman and political science senior Eyal Binshtock both “stalk” students when looking for a parking space.
“I simply follow people to their car as they leave and sometimes even offer them a ride,” Schlactman said.
Though some students declined, many were happy to be driven to their spots in exchange for first dibs on the parking space, he said.
Or as Binshtock put it, “Wait at the beginning of the row till someone walks by. Ask if they’re leaving. Then stalk ’em like they’re a gazelle and you’re a lion.”
Carpool. Whenever Dorsey and his roommates had similar start times, they would take one car and split the cost of a parking pass. This cuts down on congestion, pollution, and keeps your blood pressure in check as you search for an elusive spot.
Unlike high school students, many Cal Poly students don’t leave campus until evening.
The Cal Poly University Police Department offers a campus escort van for such situations. Sunday through Thursday, escort vans will pick students up from various places on campus every half hour, including in front of the University Union and the library.
The program starts at dusk and continues until midnight. The van will drop students off anywhere up to one-half mile off the Cal Poly campus, including apartment buildings, houses, and parking lots.
“It’s a great resource for students and the library route is especially popular,” said university police department employee Patty Cash-Henning.
The university police department offers pamphlets with more after-dark campus safety tips.