From Drexel’s campus, you can easily get to anywhere in the world. With subways, shuttles, trains and buses, you can go short distances, and with the airport just an easy train ride away you can go long distances as well.
But even though all the options are there, actually figuring out how to get around can be a lot more difficult.
I know it took me about two years to venture onto a SEPTA bus, just because their website isn’t very user friendly and I was so scared of getting on a bus going in the wrong direction and ending up in a completely unknown place. When everyone else already seems to know what’s going on with transportation, and everyone is always in so much of a hurry to get where they’re going, asking questions or potentially getting things wrong can be a terrifying thought.
Luckily, things aren’t as complicated as they seem, especially if you know a few helpful tips and websites. First off, the Drexel shuttle is absolutely the most important transportation option there is, because it’s 100 percent free. Center City actually isn’t a particularly long walk, but if you don’t have time for that, if the weather’s bad, or if you have heavy things to carry, the shuttle is perfect. It leaves from the corner of 33rd and Market — close to the dorms, even closer to classes — every fifteen minutes on weekdays, and takes you to 15th and Race Streets, where Drexel nursing and med students take classes (and only a few blocks’ walk from most Center City attractions.) You will need to show your Drexel ID to get on the shuttle, so make sure you keep that somewhere easily accessible — I keep mine in my phone case.
The University of Pennsylvania also offers free shuttle services for both Penn and Drexel students that go to some other locations in the area, so definitely look into the routes on their website, especially if you’re looking to go into West Philadelphia.
If you’re looking to go to places in the city that aren’t on the shuttle routes, you might have to pay a few dollars, but there’s a lot of routes available. It’s a good idea to always carry a SEPTA key card loaded with some money to avoid worrying about cash fares — if you pay with the card (which you can buy at any subway station using a kiosk) a one-way fare is only $2 and can be paid with a single tap. The subway routes are simple — the blue line goes east and west on Market Street and the orange line, north and south on Broad Street — but the buses can be more complicated. Your best bet to figure out a route is actually with Google Maps, where you can easily input your current location and destination, and it’ll show you which bus numbers are best for you, along with approximate travel times and where exactly you should get on and off the bus.
The SEPTA website is notably untrustworthy with bus times, so the best way to track your bus is using skookul.com. This site GPS tracks all the buses in the city, so you can pick your route number and see at a glance on a map where all the buses on that route are, right now. Tapping on an individual bus will also tell you which direction it’s going, so you can be sure you’re getting on the right one.
Finally, there’s long distance travel. 30th Street Station offers both regional rail and Amtrak trains, as well as Megabus and BoltBus. Regional rail trains go to the Pennsylvania suburbs, and are perfect for visiting your local friends’ families and getting some good home cooked food — the SEPTA website (septa.org) is a lot more reliable for regional rail, which includes lines to the airport, New Jersey and Delaware as well as further into Pennsylvania, and there’s also information boards and hard copy schedules available at the station.
Amtrak trains go to places like New York, Washington, Boston, Baltimore, and other major cities up and down the coast. They’re convenient and fast, but tend to be really expensive, especially for students on a budget. If you’re looking to travel on a budget, buses are almost always the best option. Most leave from 30th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard, but Greyhound buses leave from a station at 10th & Filbert streets (which is easy to get to on the subway.) The best place to buy bus tickets is from wanderu.com, where you can put in your destination and travel dates, and it’ll show you all the different route, time and price options you have, so you can make absolutely sure you’re getting the best deal. As with most things, booking in advance and travelling early in the morning or late at night will generally get you the cheapest prices.
Even if you don’t plan on straying far from campus in your first term or two, knowing how to get around can help you feel more at ease in the city, and saves a lot of worry if you ever end up stuck somewhere not sure how to get home. It takes almost two hours to walk back to the dorms from the movie theater in southeast Philly. Don’t make my mistakes.