By Kyle Lochridge, SPAS 2018
Southern California is a spectacular place! Sunshine, beaches, Mexican food, perfect weather almost year-round … And then there’s traffic. And our traffic is the worst. If it is at all possible for you to live in the Fullerton area while you’re in school, DO IT! This post is not meant to endorse the commuter lifestyle. I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be easy to add traveling into your already busy life. However, for some people (myself included) moving to Fullerton just isn’t in the cards. And as for us, we have to brave the dreaded commute!
For all of you planning on commuting I hope that I’ll be able to answer some of your questions and give you a few pieces of advice that I’ve learned along the way. It can be really frustrating to sit in Southern California traffic, watching the minutes slip by. Here are some ways to make the most of your precious time outside of the classroom.
Commuting on the train
The train is fantastic way to get around but only if it works for your situation. Taking the train allows you to review notes, read textbooks, relax, or sleep on your way to and from MBKU. Metrolink and Amtrak are the two rail services that make stops in Fullerton. Check online to see if you live near a station (many of them offer free parking). Once you arrive, the Fullerton station is about 4 miles away from campus. That translates to a 25-35 minute bike ride (no hills by the way), an 11-14 minute drive, a $7-9 Uber/Lyft, or a very circuitous and long bus ride (don’t even bother). Personally, I ride the train and left a motor-scooter parked at the Fullerton Train station. Free parking is available for up to 72 hours in a free, lit, and security camera monitored structure adjacent to the station (see footnote). Other students have purchased a cheap “beater-car” to keep at the station. Also, cycling is a good option because Metrolink allows you to travel with your bike for free. Bring a fresh shirt to change into and keep some of your things in your locker at school to make your ride more manageable. (There are showers available in the school locker rooms for the really hot days.)
Metrolink offers monthly passes at a discounted rate for students. Purchase your tickets on the mobile app or at an automated ticket kiosk. (In LA, Metro bus and train transfers are free! Check online to see what connecting transportation services are included in your area.) If you are a Metrolink monthly pass holder, you can also ride Amtrak Surfliner trains along your route at no extra charge! (Amtrak trains are quieter, quicker, more comfortable, and have free WiFi!)
I highly recommend taking the train if you can! Fighting through traffic can grate on your nerves. Taking the train will help to keep you sane and stay productive. It’s going to pay off in the stressful and hectic years ahead.
Commuting by car
If you plan on driving, make sure you take a test run – or three! Traffic has its ebbs and flows, and you want to know what to expect. No matter if you’re coming from the north or south you’ll probably find yourself on Interstate 5 or highway 57. In the mornings, traffic on I5 isn’t too bad. Typically highway 57 is awful. The less you can be on this freeway, the better. When you’re heading home, expect massive delays anytime between 4:00-7:30 p.m. (It’s best to lock yourself in the library and get some studying done instead of sitting in traffic). Accidents, construction, and other unanticipated delays WILL slow you down. Build some extra time into your commute to give yourself a buffer. You can get to school early and hit the books or take a little nap in the student lounge but when something unexpected happens, you won’t be late.
Once you get settled with your classmates, see if you can arrange a carpool! Not only will you save on gas money, but you’ll be able to quiz each other, talk about the day’s lectures, or bounce questions off each other. If you’re going it alone, look into some helpful podcasts and listen while you drive. There are test-prep, educational, and career focused podcasts out there. Find a few that you enjoy and use them to help you study. Another option is to record yourself reading notes or key terms. Make recordings to quiz yourself while keeping your eyes on the road.
No matter what you do, travel safe!
Footnote: Full disclosure, my scooter was stolen over Memorial Day weekend. Learn from my mistake. Park in a designated space and bring a cable or chain to secure your motorcycle/scooter to the cable fence in the middle of the structure. (If you’re considering this, I bought my scooter on Craigslist for only $400. It was perfect for my commute, just make sure your cycle is safe, and wear a DOT-approved helmet.) If you’re going to ride a bicycle, don’t lock it up at the Fullerton station. The bike racks are next to the ticket depot and there is no security overnight.