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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Commuter guide: Staying sane, safe in Houston

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/ The Cougar

As many are already aware, UH is a school known for its commuter population. With almost 85% of UH undergraduates living off campus, UH students are all too familiar with the perils of navigating Houston traffic. 

Though the city’s tangled freeway system and perpetual construction can compound school-related stress, overcoming it can be as easy as taking a different route or leaving a few minutes earlier. 

If you’re new to UH, or the city in general, this article will help prepare you for the realities of going to and from campus. 

Know your route 

It sounds simple enough. Know the route before leaving and figure out where classes are beforehand.  Navigating campus can be confusing for first-time students, so checking the various online campus maps ahead of time can help you get a better understanding of the distance between classes.  

Understand Houston traffic

As a commuter, understanding when traffic is at its peak during the morning and evening rush hours will help determine when to leave.  

Based on data collected by TomTom Trafic Index, Houston’s traffic is most active between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and anywhere from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the drive home. Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. are the absolute peak of traffic during the week, where it takes approximately 13 minutes to travel just 6 miles, with an average speed of 28.5 mph on all streets and highways. 

Some parts of the city are more difficult to navigate through than others, so be prepared to leave even earlier if you maneuver through these areas.

The 610-West Loop between Interstate 10 and Interstate 69 in the Galleria/Uptown area was ranked the No. 1 in the 100 most congested roads in Texas in 2022, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

Interstate 35 to US 290 was ranked the fourth most-congested, and Eastex Freeway at Interstate 69 came in at number 5. 

Interstate 45, Gulf Freeway between Interstate 10 and US 90 and 610 cracked the list at number 10. 

Avoid these areas at all costs. 

Leave early

Always leave at least 15 to 20 minutes early. If a student is taking a 10 a.m. course and it takes 30 minutes to get to campus, they should leave at 9 a.m. The earlier you leave, the more likely you are to get to class on time.

Students are under a lot of stress to manage their time and to be productive, yet commuting tends to add more to that stress. Driving directly takes away from that that could be used for relaxation, homework or self-care. 

The satisfaction with a person’s drive to school indirectly affects their psychological well-being. If someone is dissatisfied with their commute it can have a negative effect on their mental health. Especially for those already struggling with mental health issues. 

Arriving early means you have time to get from your vehicle to the classroom, you can stop by the Student Center to get breakfast before class and extra time can be used to catch up on some work or check emails.

Know your resources 

UH also promotes its Commuter Student Service which helps provide support services to help student success by meeting the needs of the commuter community at UH. 

There is also the Commuters Assitance Program that pairs incoming freshman and transfer commuters with ‘seasoned’ veteran upperclassmen who are experienced in navigating through the unique lifestyle of college for students living off campus. 

For students who carpool, the University offers special incentives. Parking transportation Services offer students, faculty and staff the opportunity to receive discounted permits or premium parking spaces for carpooling. 

Fifty percent off permits if you carpool with three people and 75 percent if you carpool with four people at least three days a week. 

Bottom line

Commuters are faced with a unique and different challenge than most college students living on campus. They must commute while balancing home, social and academic responsibilities.

Don’t be shy to reach out to fellow commuting classmates and listen to their advice, and no matter how you get here,

No matter how you get to the campus, get there safely. 

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