On Campus Transportation

img_89UCSD has a fleet of over 30 shuttles that are free of charge to students and staff who show a campus ID card. Shuttles are available to all UCSD affiliated housing and the surrounding neighborhoods, running every ten to fifteen minutes for most of the day and every half hour during the night time.

Shuttles also loop around the perimeter of the campus, but it is usually quicker to walk or bike to your destination. Service is also provided to the outlying parking lots. Most of the choice parking is filled by eight o’clock in the morning.

There are also shuttles that run back and forth from Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) and another route running down to Hillcrest Medical Center. This shuttle is ideal for those living in the Hillcrest or University Heights area.

Up to the minute locations of shuttles can be found via a GPS-tracking website, available here. A map of all of the shuttle routes can be found here.


img_93While there are many things one can do in San Diego without a car, you will spend a fair amount of time traveling using public transportation. Because San Diego is so spread out, having access to a car is highly recommended.

If you live more than a few miles from campus (and not near a bus stop), you will probably drive to campus, which means that you will need to pick up a parking permit. Information on buying a permit can be found here. As a graduate student, you are able to purchase a “B” permit or an “S” permit. The “S” permit is about 2/3 the price of a “B” permit, but undergraduates only have access to “S” permits and as such, those spots tend to fill up quickly while there are usually “B” spots available all throughout the day.

Having a car also means that you need to take care of it. Information about nearby Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) locations can be found under Moving to San Diego.

At the time of writing, no list of mechanics is available. Dealerships, while expensive, will perform quality work. More information and reviews can be found on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website or Yelp!

There are many places to get a car wash in San Diego. If you are willing to wash it yourself, there is a cheap car wash at 4678 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, tucked behind a couple of restaurants. For a couple of dollars, you can wash your car.

Closer to campus is San Diego Car Care. While the standard price for a car wash is close to $20, there are usually coupons available either online or in StudentDollarStrechers which are available at the start of each quarter on Library Walk. Regardless, they do a nice job for the price.

Public Buses/Trains

Bus Routes

img_91Local bus routes can be found at Routes in the Free Bus Zone may be taken for free by getting a free bus sticker on your ID card. If you need to take a route that is not covered by the free sticker, there is also a quarterly bus pass you can buy at the parking office in the Gilman parking structure.

Routes serving UCSD:

  • 30 – Downtown San Diego, Pacific Beach, La Jolla, University City (via La Jolla Shores Dr. along the coast)
  • 41 – Linda Vista, Clairemont, University City (via Genesee Ave.)
  • 150 – Downtown San Diego, Old Town, University City (via I-5) Note the pdf includes Route 50 which is not in the Free Bus Zone.
  • 201 – University City (counterclockwise loop)
  • 202 – University City (clockwise loop)
  • 921 – University City, Sorrento Mesa, Mira Mesa Note the pdf includes Route 31 which is not in the Free Bus Zone.
  • 101 – Starts at UTC and goes through UCSD and then along the coast all the way to Oceanside.

The public buses also provide a decent way to get to and from the airport relatively cheap. (It is still probably better to hitch a ride from a friend if you can.) The 992 is the only route that services the airport. It follows a loop between the airport and downtown, where one can catch either the 30 or the 150. (The 150 is preferrable, as it returns to UCSD via the freeway, saving a lot of time.) Returning to campus on the 30 will take a little over an hour while the 150 can get you back within 30 minutes. If you schedule flights according to the times that the buses run, you can get to and from campus quickly and inexpensively.

Train Routes

The main train service serving UCSD is the Coaster. It travels from Oceanside to downtown San Diego and back. Most of the routes are in the morning and afternoon, as it is heavily used by business people. Many of the stops offer free shuttles to other places, and UCSD runs its own shuttle to the Sorrento Valley Coaster station as well. The shuttle has a very convenient stop at Mandeville (near AP&M).

The other train service is Amtrak. This is useful if you are going longer distances (say to LA) and don’t have a car, or just don’t want to drive. There are stations in downtown San Diego and Solana Beach. The best way to get to the Solana Beach station is to take bus route 101, which is in the free bus zone, and has a stop right in front of the station.


img_90Due to its year-round pleasant climate and plentiful bike lanes, San Diego is an excellent place to ride a bike.

Biking to Campus

Many students choose to bike to campus primarily as a way to avoid the troubles inherent in other methods of transportation, such as buying parking passes, finding parking spots in the middle of the day, or missing a bus and being late to class. A large number of roads near UCSD have bike lanes, and for those who live within four or five miles of campus, riding a bike is usually faster than driving or taking the city bus or campus shuttle. Some even bike from as far as Pacific Beach and Del Mar. One thing to note is that there are some serious hills on certain roads in the area. The worst hills are La Jolla Shores Dr. coming from downtown La Jolla along the coast, N. Torrey Pines Rd. coming south down the coast and Genesee Ave. from the southern UTC area.

Some things you may want if you plan to commute more than a few miles:

  • Puncture resistant tires – so you don’t have to stop to fix a flat.
  • Rack with panniers (saddlebags) – carrying a backpack will make your back sweat a lot.
  • Headlight/taillight – if you need to ride at night.

Rose Canyon Bike Path

An important link connecting the UCSD/UTC area to the Mission Bay area (Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach) is the Rose Canyon Bike Path. Unlike the steep hills mentioned above, this path is relatively flat.

The north end of the Rose Canyon bike path starts at the south end of Gilman Dr. at the exit from I-5. It runs south between I-5 and the railroad tracks. The south end exits onto Santa Fe Dr. There is not much traffic on Santa Fe Dr. because it dead ends at the bike path. There is a decent shoulder to ride on. You’ll often encounter other bicyclists using this route.

If traveling to/from Pacific Beach, the Rose Creek bike path is also useful. The north end of the Rose Creek bike path starts near the Mission Bay Dr. entrance/exit to I-5 directly across from Damon Ave. The path passes under Balboa/Garnet Ave. and Grand Ave. but there are exits to both roads from the path. The south end of the path exits onto N. Mission Bay Dr. Note that homeless people tend to hang out on the path near the north end.

Pedal Club

img_92UCSD has a Pedal Club, which might be a wise idea to join if you bike to school regularly. The club offers all sorts of small benefits, but the main reason to join is that if you also own a car, you get a free 10-day parking permit each quarter. To join the Pedal Club, simply register your bike with the state of California (this costs $6, see below), then go to the Gilman Parking Structure, equipped with your bike or a receipt of your registration and your student ID. If you want the free parking pass, you also need to bring proof of your car’s registration.

Biking around San Diego

There are many bike paths and designated bike lanes in San Diego. The San Diego Region Bike Map outlines all of the bike paths, lanes and routes. The pdf is rather hard to use, so it’s better to just order the free printed copy of the San Diego Region Bike Map from the online map page.

Registering Your Bike

To register your bike with the state of California, and can be done at the UCSD Bike Shop. It costs $6. Registering your bike allows you to join the Pedal Club, and if your bike is stolen and recovered by the police, it will be returned to you instead of sold at a police auction.

Bicycle Theft

Bicycle theft does occur on the UCSD campus, more than 100 each year the last few years. Several math graduate students have had both fancy and not-so-fancy bikes stolen from their homes or from campus, during the day, while the bike was locked, in fact, some right in front of AP&M. Thiefs can cut cable locks easily, so if your bike is valuable it is highly recommended that you invest in a thick, U-shaped lock, and use it every time you are away from your bike. At the beginning of the year, these are often on sale at the UCSD Bike Shop.