Transportation & Travel
Getting Around Campus & Gainesville
Buses & Vans
The City of Gainesville operates buses that drive around the city on pre-set routes. Holders of Gator 1 ID cards are permitted use the bus service free of charge. Before renting a place to live, you should find out if it is located on a bus line. Bus schedules may be obtained from the International Center or online. It is also possible to order them from the Gainesville Regional Transit System, at 100 S.E. 10th Avenue (334-2600). Bus routes around campus stop at the commuter parking lot on North-South Drive, the fraternities, family housing areas, the health center, and various other points around campus. For more information about the campus buses, call the Traffic and Parking Customer Service Office that is located at 112 North-South Drive (392-6655). Permanently or temporarily disabled university affiliates may use the Handi-Van, a special van equipped with a hydraulic lift which enables wheelchair-bound persons to board easily. Disabled university affiliates should call the Traffic Parking Office to summon the driver. Passes for the semester or year must be purchased from the Traffic Parking Office to use the van.
Bicycles may be the best form of transportation around campus because they are quick, easy to ride, and easy to park. Bicycle parking areas surround all school buildings. However, bicycle riders should be aware of a few essential points when riding their vehicles:
- Lock Your Bicycle: Bicycle thieves will take bicycles that are unlocked. Various types of locks may be purchased in stores. UFIC and the University Police Department (UPD), located at Museum Road Newell Drive (392-1409), can show you literature about the different kinds of locks which are recommended. The UPD will also engrave student numbers on bicycles, so that the bicycle can be identified if recovered.
- Follow the Bicycle Traffic Laws: The UPD is very strict about issuing tickets. The most commonly violated regulations are: 1) failure to stop completely at a stop sign, and 2) riding the wrong way down a one-way street. These tickets are usually $80, regardless of the violation, no matter if you are driving a car, riding a bike, or driving a moped! The UPD has brochures on bicycle safety, violations and fines. You may want to stop by the UPD office get this free information. 3) If bicyclists do not pay their tickets, their driver licenses will be suspended. Furthermore, if you a stopped for future violations, and have outstanding tickets, you can be arrested
Mopeds appeal to many students, faculty, and staff because they are inexpensive, easy to maneuver, and easy to store. Although it is not necessary to obtain a license to drive most mopeds, it is important to remember that traffic rules are strictly enforced in Gainesville, and that police officers will issue tickets to violators. Riders may want to wear helmets when riding their mopeds for safety. The UPD also has a brochure on moped safety, and traffic laws which apply to mopeds. There are also some moped laws you should be aware of: 1) moped operators must have at least a restricted State of Florida driver license, 2) if the moped has an engine with more than 50 cc's engine displacement, then it is a motorcycle and requires a special motorcycle license.
Do you really need a car? It may seem that everyone here needs a car, and that everyone has one. In fact, many students do not own cars, and it is quite possible to live in a city like Gainesville without having one. Cars are expensive to buy, repair, and maintain. Traffic and parking violation tickets can also be very costly. Cars will require continuous expenditures such as vehicle registration, insurance, and fuel. It is imperative for drivers from other countries to be familiar with the Florida Vehicle Laws governing driving in Florida. Failure to do this can result in traffic tickets or serious accidents. Some of the most commonly violated rules are those which deal with speed limits and parking. Traffic tickets are a minimum of $52. Parking tickets can range from $5 to $100 depending on the violation. The state of Florida enforces strict penalties for drivers who operate vehicles under the influence of alcohol. These include hundreds of dollars in fines, weeks of community service work, revocation of your driver's license, mandatory attendance at driving school and a possible jail term! Don't drive drunk! Please see the section on Safety for other advice on drinking and driving dangers. The UPD also has brochures on the traffic laws, drunk driving penalties, and other related topics.
Drivers who hold only international driver's licenses, or who move to Florida and will drive a car or moped, must obtain a Florida state driver's license within 30 days of arriving in Florida. The Florida Department of Highway Safety Motor Vehicles has two Gainesville Division of Driver Licenses offices. The Northwest Driver Licenses office is located at 5830 NW 34th Street (955-2111 for information), just behind the Highway Patrol Station on Highway 441, and across from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The office is open Tuesday through Friday, between 7:00am and 6:00pm. Drivers who receive a driver license for the first time must take a written test, a road test, and a vision test. Learner's permits are available for those people who have not held a driver license before. Florida Driver's Handbooks are available from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles offices, and the UPD.
Non-immigrants renewing or applying for a new driver license or identification card will be required to submit:
- Primary identification document
- Proof of social security number*
- Two proofs of residential address
*For foreign nationals who are ineligible to receive a social security number, the DMV website states that a “transcript of the birth record filed with a public officer charged with the duty of recording certificates” will satisfy the social security (proof of ID) requirement. The following link provides driver’s license applicants access to a detailed list of the required documents: http://www.gathergoget.com/.
The Alachua County Tag office is located at 5801 NW 34th Street (374-5263), across from the Northwest Driver Licenses office. You must register your automobile with the Alachua County Tag Office when you purchase it, or once you arrive in Florida with your car from another state. Upon registering your vehicle, you will receive a license plate or "tag." The registration charge depends upon the weight of the automobile, and other factors. Florida Motor Vehicle Regulations are available at the Tag Agency. Owners must renew their registration annually. Automobile owners must bring a certificate of title of the vehicle, proof of insurance, and a driver's license to the Tag Agency to apply for a tag, title and registration. All of these are handled at the Alachua County Tag Agency. The office is open Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a m and 5:00 p m.
State of Florida law requires all automobile owners to have car insurance with a minimum of at least Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and property damage. PIP insurance covers 80% of your medical expenses, or 80% of your passengers' medical expenses in the event of an accident. Florida has a "no-fault" insurance law in which no matter who is at fault in an accident, your own medical expenses will be covered (up to 80%; health insurance usually covers most of the other 20%, less your deductible). Property damage insurance covers damage to another car, a house, or other personal property, if you are at fault. Liability insurance protects you from being sued by someone else in the event of an accident for their injuries or personal property damage up to the limits of your coverage. Collision insurance, usually for newer cars, compensates for damages to the insured driver's car in cases of a collision with another car. Comprehensive insurance covers losses caused by vandalism, fire, broken windshield, theft, or other abuses. Failure to have automobile insurance is against the law, and leads to fines, possible imprisonment, and having your driver’s license revoked or suspended. Many private companies offer automobile insurance at different rates. A listing of these agents can be obtained from the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone book under the heading "Insurance--Automobile." When purchasing car insurance, it is important to consider that the amount of insurance purchased should depend on the value of the car. It is wise to compare prices and the extent of coverage with at least two automobile insurance agents before choosing a policy. Insurance rates vary with the company; these depend on the value of the car, the age of the drive, and past driving records of the driver. You should choose the type of insurance coverage that best meets your driving needs, and meets the state law requirements.
No matter where you live, if you drive an automobile, you need auto insurance coverage. There are a number of different insurance policy options available to help you get the complete auto insurance coverage you need. For example, Allstate offers liability and medical protection including insurance to protect you from those with little or no insurance. Their vehicle protection plans help protect you through collision coverage and comprehensive coverage options. Additional protection can also be extended to you to protect you from a variety of personal injuries such as lost income, child care expenses, and medical expenses.
Mandatory Safety Belt Usage Laws
State of Florida law requires the driver and front seat passengers to wear seat belts. If a front-seat passenger under 16 years of age is not restrained by a child restraint device or fails to wear a seat belt, the driver of the car will be charged with violating this law. If a front-seat passenger 16 years of age or older fails to wear a seat belt, the passenger will be charged with violating this law. In a crash, you are far more likely to be killed if you are not wearing a safety belt. The section on Safety has more information regarding safety belt laws.
Buying an Automobile
Because new automobiles are expensive many students purchase used cars if they decide they need a vehicle. It is wise to be cautious and curious when buying a used car. Prospective buyers should ask many questions about the condition of the vehicle. An organization called "Consumer Reports" prints an annual Buyer's Guide for automobiles, which lists the automobile make, year, and repair record of models. The Public Library carries copies of this magazine. You should always take the used automobile that you want to buy to a mechanic before you buy it. For a fee, he will inspect the vehicle for mechanical problems. This informs the prospective buyer about possible problems they may encounter before they buy the car. This small investment may save hundreds of dollars in avoided repair bills. It is important for international visitors to choose a car that they can sell when they leave. If you buy a car from an individual, insist on a written receipt or bill of sale. The seller may have to accompany you to the Tag Agency to fill out forms. A used or new car dealer must give you a receipt or bill of sale. In addition, you need the title to the car, which proves your ownership. The seller or car dealer must sign the title over to you. Never buy a car for which the seller does not have the title! Many automobile salesmen will make promises they cannot keep to car buyers, or will coerce customers to purchase a car. You are the customer and should choose the item you want. Be sure to have the salesman's promise in writing. "Buyer beware." It is not a good idea to purchase automobile from an automobile salesman by yourself. They are very skilled at manipulating customers. Ask a friend who has previously negotiated for a car to go with you so that he/she can bargain with the salesman. Unlike prices of goods in stores, the prices of automobiles can be negotiated.
Traveling Outside of Gainesville
When you must travel to other parts of the country or state, you can choose several modes of transportation. These include airplane, rental car, ride sharing, bus, and train. Large airports located within driving distance of Gainesville include Jacksonville Airport (located off of Route I-95) and Orlando Airport (located off the Bee Line Expressway). They are both two hours away. Passengers must arrive early -- perhaps even an hour early -- to guarantee their seat on the plane. Airlines sell more tickets than seats, and the last passengers to arrive may lose their seats if the flight is overbooked.
Some people prefer to rent an automobile or van when driving a distance. Rental car agencies are listed in "Yellow Pages" of the telephone book under the category, "Automobile Renting and Leasing." You must hold a valid driver's license in order to rent an automobile. Some companies require you to have a major credit card before they will lease a car to you, or may require a cash deposit.
The J. Wayne Reitz Union (JWRU) Ride Board is a board on which people seeking and offering rides exchange information. It is located on the ground floor of the Reitz Union. The riders usually contribute to the cost of gas when they share a car. Be careful before accepting rides with a stranger; be certain you feel comfortable about riding with the person before you leave. Also give a friend the name of the person you are riding with, the automobile tag number and description of the car, your destination and expected arrival time. Call your friend upon your arrival at your destination to let them know you arrived safely.
A Caution about Hitchhiking
"Hitchhiking," or hiking along a road or highway with a sign posting your destination, is extremely dangerous in this country. Many people have been robbed, raped, or killed while hitchhiking. People who wish to travel are advised to find other means of transportation besides hitchhiking. DO NOT HITCHHIKE!
The Greyhound Bus Station in Gainesville is located at 101 NE 23rd Avenue (352-376-5252). Bus service is provided to Florida cities and most cities in the U.S.
The Amtrak Railroad does not have a station in Gainesville, but does have on in Palatka. It takes about 40 minutes by car to reach the station. Amtrak's toll-free number is 1-800-872-7245. The Palatka ticket station's address is 11th & Reid Streets, Palatka, FL 32077.