Transportation while living abroad can be a huge hurdle to immersing in the new world you’ve traveled so far to experience. As an international student or scholar, you may feel like you must have a car to get anywhere in Austin. While Austin is by no means a transportation trendsetter like Seoul or Singapore, its CapMetro bus system—which is free to use with your UT ID card—is still a great option for getting around Austin without a car.
But how to use CapMetro to your advantage? Where to go with the buses at your fingertips? Hopefully I can help you find some answers to these questions, though ultimately it will be up to you to seek out adventure or utility as you see fit.
There are 3 types of CapMetro buses, with multiple types of routes, but I’m going to focus on two types of buses that go right by UT campus.
The MetroBus route (1, 3, 19, 30 etc) buses have a farebox at the front and look sort of like this:
There are also the MetroRapid bus routes 801 and 803, which have fareboxes at every door and look like this:
Pro-tip: You don’t have to enter the MetroRapid 801 and 803 at the front of the bus. If there’s no line at the back door, enter these red buses through them and swipe your card at the farebox there!
Okay, so now you know what the different buses look like, and how not to look like a fool waiting in a line at the front of a MetroRapid bus. But where can you even go with these buses? Here are a few of the many places you can get to from the UT Austin campus by bus.
Destination 1—South Congress
The heart and soul of yesteryear’s quirky Austin, South Congress is just a stone’s throw away with the 1 and 801 buses! You can hop on either bus at the “West Mall” bus station, right in front of the Jamba Juice on the Drag (Guadalupe St.) and in less than half an hour you could be slurping a Belgian Bomber at Jo’s coffee, taking an selfie in front of the iconic “I love you so much” mural—sounds nice, right?
Destination 2—The Domain
Want to go on a shopping spree at Zara at the Domain, but no friend is available to drive you? Don’t fret, as the 3 and 803 are here to save the day! You can take the 3 or the 803 from The Drag direct to the Domain. It may take some time for you to get there, but there’s never been a better time to catch up on your favorite NPR podcast.
Destination 3—Zilker Park
Picture this: You’re spending the day sunbathing at Barton Springs, playing with a friendly dog in Zilker Park, and enjoying Austin’s beautiful weather. You can easily make this a reality using just one bus and a little foot-work. Get on the 803 MetroRapid bus on the Drag and take it all the way to the Barton Springs stop just south of the River. This route will require some walking, so if you’d rather minimize walking, transfer to the 30 at Republic Square and it will drop you off right in Zilker Park!
These are just a few examples of places you could go with CapMetro and your UT ID card, but there are plenty of other destinations as well. Some places may be harder to reach by bus, but remember buses are just one piece of the puzzle. Personally I ride my bike around town, and together with buses, biking can greatly expand the possibilities of fun for you! Just keep that curiosity and keep exploring, and when you return home, hopefully you can tell others you truly experienced Austin instead of watching Netflix in your room in all your spare time.