Parking Services provides transportation alternatives for commuter students

Students can ride bikes, the bus or carpool to campus through resources available from Parking Services (Photo by Maurice C. Jones).
Students can ride bikes, the bus or carpool to campus through resources available from Parking Services (Photo by Maurice C. Jones).

For George Mason University student Julia Jazynka, who lives near the Vienna metro station, alternative transportation makes sense.

"I live right next to the metro so it's cheaper to just take the shuttle than have to pay for parking or anything," Jazynka said.

Not every student needs to live near a major metro station to have access to public transportation. Mason provides students with many options to avoid having a car on campus, most of which are either free or much cheaper than maintaining a car.

One of these options is Zimride, a private company that provides ride sharing services for free. Zimride  partners with Mason to allow students to find carpools at a unique URL.

Because some students may not consider the environmental benefits when making commuting decisions, Mason provides alternative incentives to find a carpool. Carpoolers save money by splitting the cost of gas and parking passes. From 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., a section of General Lot A is sectioned off for cars containing more than one person.

Zimride was also one of the first carpool companies to allow users to log in using their Facebook, enabling students to check who they are matched up with and see if they have mutual friends. Viewing whom a user has been matched up with can help students feel safe in their carpools.

Transportation Coordinator Marina Budimir said Zimride is not only for routine commutes, but also for long road trips.

"If you're going away for the weekend somewhere and you don't want to drive or you are driving and want to split the cost of gas or just some company for your long trip, you can use Zimride," Budimir said.

Zimride allows students to enter their general location, destinations and schedules to find carpool matches.

"I've actually used Zimride personally to get a carpool started,” Budimir said. “For the last year and a half, I've been carpooling with people who live in my neighborhood in D.C., so it worked out really well. Every once in a while I'll get new matches. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't for various reasons, but it's good to just keep getting those new matches.”

Zipcar, a national rental agency that also has a partnership with Mason, is another option for non-routine trips. After making a reservation, students can pick up a card to unlock their chosen rental car. The reservation ends once the car is returned to its spot and locked back up again. . There are currently three Zipcars available on campus, two near Mason Pond and one in Rappahannock Deck. Students can buy a yearlong membership for $15.

"It’s intended for short one, two, three hour trips. It's $66 a day, $7- 11 an hour depending on what kind of vehicle you have," said Joshua Cantor, director of Mason Parking and Transportation. "Well the idea is, if you take two trips a month instead of coming here, paying insurance and for a permit, you can just have access to a Zipcar," Cantor said.

Zimride and Zipcar help reduce the need for parking on campus and offer students cheap alternatives to maintaining a car. Students need only be 18 years of age, and international students are welcome.

"The number of resident students that have a permit is only about 33 percent, so that number has significantly dropped over the years. For us, it's just one part of the transportation program," Cantor said.

Mason Shuttles are another option for commuters. Shuttles found on the Fairfax campus include Mason to Metro, Metro Express, CUE Bus, Prince William Shuttle, Field House Express, Gunston's Go-Bus and the new Burke VRE shuttle service.

According to Budimir, the Gunston Go-Bus schedule was extended this semester to include a morning route.

"Students were using it to go shopping quite a bit and we also noticed some students caught on that the shuttle was coming near their homes so they started using it as a way to actually commute to campus for class," Budimir said. "Also, I've noticed that has helped alleviate some of the traffic in the afternoon."

The Gunston Go-Bus is also useful for students who need to go grocery shopping and cannot walk back with many bags. Since many students work at various malls and shopping centers, the Gunston Go-Bus allows students to work off campus.

"I ride the Mason to Metro when I'm trying to get to the metro, but then I'll ride the Gunston Go-Bus which takes me to University Mall to get groceries and things like that so I guess I really do utilize all the shuttles on campus," said senior Caroline Crawford, a creative writing major.

The Burke VRE Express began its service Sept. 23. The shuttle runs between the Burke VRE train station and the Sandy Creek shuttle stops.  Free parking is also available in the train station parking lot.

"It's timed so that it picks up when the train arrives and drops off before the train takes off again," Budimir said.

Alternative transportation allows students to focus on school or relaxing, rather than driving.

"I'm going into Environmental Science so I'm a big person on commuting and public transportation. I ride the metro everywhere, I ride shuttles, buses, everything," Jazynka said. "It doesn't go everywhere and it does add on time, but, at the same time, you can sit on the shuttle and read like three pages in your textbook, [rather] than being stuck in traffic and have to concentrate on driving."

Shuttle schedules and destinations can be found at

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