Friday, September 22

Don’t have a car? Don’t sweat it

Even if road trips are threatened by the economy or global warming, you can still get around without a car of your own, whether you’re taking the train to visit a friend at another school or sharing a ride home with another student you found on a Facebook application.

To get out of Westwood or Los Angeles, you can take a train from Los Angeles Union Station, in downtown.

“I would do it again without any hesitation,” said Michael Allen Stevens, a second-year political science student who took Metrolink to San Diego last year. “It was pretty simple to find the station and make sure I got on the right one.”

When you’re finding a departing train and purchasing a ticket online, keep in mind that Amtrak services the entire state and allows you to buy tickets online, while Metrolink runs only through Southern California stations and offers purchases only at ticket vending machines or ticket outlets.

Rates are easy to find online for specific trips: Amtrak, for example, is currently charging $32 for trips from Union Station to both San Luis Obispo (a five-hour, 15-minute train ride) and Santa Barbara (a two-hour, 30-minute train ride).

If you need to take a bus from your arrival station to the place you’re visiting, both Amtrak and Metrolink include online options for bus rides.

But how do you get to Union Station, or anywhere in Los Angeles for that matter, from campus? Consider options other than bumming a ride downtown from a friend.

If you want to take a cab, anticipate a company’s rates ahead of time by visiting their Web site. Los Angeles Yellow Cab Co., for example, provides online estimates for any trip you enter.

“L.A. has expensive transportation,” said Amanda Silver-Westrick, a first-year international development studies student who regularly uses Yellow Cab Co.

“Part of the reason we’re at UCLA is to take advantage of the resources around us, but it’s really hard to do if we can’t get anywhere. (Using taxis is) really easy,” she added. “They can either send a cab to you in five to 15 minutes, or you can ask them for a certain time.”

While Yellow Cab Co. is reliably punctual, Silver-Westrick said, be warned that taxis may be more expensive than expected.

Whether you’re looking at a ride to the train station or a day trip, don’t forget about local car-rental companies such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car or Budget. While there are certain restrictions on the kind of vehicle you can drive, those between the ages 21 and 24 can pay a $27 surcharge to drive Budget in Los Angeles. With Budget, you can also look up locations online within a 10- or 25-mile radius and schedule to be picked up from campus for free.

With Zipcar, another car-rental service, students can set up an account online for an annual fee of $35 and locate vehicles on campus. The rate, about $9 an hour, is better for students who need a car for an afternoon rather than for a road trip.

Another student-based option for car travel, new to UCLA, is Zimride, a service which has a Facebook application that students can use to find or offer rides.

“Our specialty is for university-campus situations,” said Logan Green, Zimride founder and CEO. “We are all about connecting people taking the same trip, and beyond that, we want to make transportation fun, social and sustainable.”

Zimride has seen considerable success with UCLA in just a few months at just short of 900 Bruin users, as of press time, he said.

The benefits of Zimride being an application on Facebook means that friends can see the trips you’re making, which helps spread the word and reduces the number of cars going to the same place, Green said.

“This is the evolution of the old school ride board,” he said. UCLA’s ride board, by the way, is the panel located on the wall in Ackerman by Campus Cuts if you want to check out the available rides listed on the note cards.

Another benefit of Zimride being online and on Facebook, however, is that you can stalk your potential ridemates before agreeing to sit in a car with them for a few hours. Once you’ve hit the road together, you’ll be saving on money and gas and reducing hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

With the economy on the downhill and global warming on the rise, finding transportation for yourself this quarter may seem threatening, but choosing the most effective travel options shouldn’t be difficult once you’ve fitted travel plans with the resources available to you and considered how costs can be split.

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