Surviving in Houston Without a Car

Houston has long been a “car city,” but the transportation landscape is shifting! Especially in the last few years, alternative modes of exploring the city have become increasingly practical and economical. We have gathered a few resources below for those who prefer pedal and transit.

For added safety, Rice provides a Night Escort during the Fall and Spring semesters between 10pm-6am. Call 713-348-6000 for the escort service.

Note: There is a lively, ongoing debate about how to make the sprawling city of Houston feel more walkable. If you have any suggestions for the city on how to improve walkability (e.g. “better sidewalks on Greenbriar Dr.”), you can submit them here or email them to the Walkable Places Committee at planningdepartment@houstontx.gov.

Owning a Car

First, if you are considering owning a car while attending Rice, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Depending on the lot, parking rates at Rice (as of March 1, 2022) cost between $191 - $946 per year. It costs less to park farther away. Campus shuttles are available to pick you up, but depending on where they are en route, you should expect to wait up to 15 minutes. You can track campus shuttles on your phone using the TransLoc app.
  • Car insurance rates increase every year, and currently average $130/month.
  • Although gas prices in Houston are typically lower than in other places in the country, they are unpredictable. In December 2021, prices averaged around $2.90/gallon.
  • Car maintenance is another factor that can be both incredibly expensive and inconvenient.

Go here for information on driver’s licenses.
Go here for information regarding vehicle registration and inspection.
Some popular car insurance companies include: Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, and Progressive.

Owning a Bike

Bicycles are becoming an increasingly affordable and accessible mode of transportation in Houston!

For the first time in 2017, Rice was named a “Bicycle-Friendly University” by the League of American Bicyclists.

Admittedly, the conditions of some Houston roads are not the best. Still, they are a physically and environmentally healthier alternative, so long as you wear a helmet, use a bell and a flashing light, and pay close attention to your surroundings.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Be courteous and careful!
  • Pedestrians generally have the right of way; please yield to them.
  • You may be liable if you hit or injure someone, so check your insurance policy to make sure you are covered.
  • You are only allowed to park your bicycle in designated racks provided throughout campus.
  • To protect your bike from theft, you should use a “U” lock, which you can purchase from RUPD for $10.

You can register your bike with RUPD here. (You’ll get a free Rice Bicycle Bell when you do!)

For more information on safety and traffic guidelines and what to do if your bike is stolen on campus, go here. In addition, we recommend the video on bicycle safety produced by the Graduate Student Association, Student Association and Cycling & Triathlon Club. To view the video, click here.

Houston’s Bike Share Program (BCycle)

If bike ownership does not interest you, you can still take advantage of the city’s growing bike share program. In the past few years, the program has grown considerably.

Houston BCycle has over 100 bike stations throughout central Houston, including several on Rice campus.

Bikes are especially useful for short trips: e.g. to and from the grocery store, Hermann Park, Rice Village, or Miller Outdoor Theatre. Anyone can rent a bike for $3 per 30-minute trip.

For students, staff, and visiting scholars at Rice, BCycle offers discounted memberships for $25/semester, which allows you to take unlimited trips under 60 minutes!

To manage your membership or to view a map of station locations, you can download the BCycle app here.

Houston METRO

Houston Metro is the city’s public bus and light rail transportation service.

Using the METRO TRIP app (available on iPhone and Android), you can plan your route from start to finish, and capture real-time bus and rail arrival information.

Bilingual customer care representatives can provide information regarding routes and schedules. Call 713-635-4000 (M-F: 6am-8pm; Weekends: 8am-8pm).

Rice University sits directly on the Red Line of the metro. (Refer to rail map for more information.)

How to use the Q Card:

  • Prior to each ride, you must tap your card at the Q Box located on all buses and rail platforms.
  • When you tap, a green light will appear with your remaining balance.
  • You cannot double-tap to pay for another person.
  • METRO Police can scan your card to make sure you tapped the card.

For the public, bus and rail fares are just $1.25 each way.

For Rice Graduate students, subsidized METRO Q cards are available for sale in the Cashier’s Office (1st floor Allen Center). The card value is $250, but the cost to graduate students is $55. Graduate students are allowed only one card per academic year. (Post-docs and other Scholars are unfortunately not eligible for this offer.)

Rice Undergraduate students can obtain a free METRO card at the Cashier’s Office (1st floor Allen Center). Students are expected to use one card the entire time they are at Rice. If lost or stolen, immediately notify the Cashier’s Office in person or via cashier@rice.edu. You will be charged a fee for a replacement card.

Houston METRORail Red Line MapHouston METRORail Green Line MapHouston METRORail Purple Line Map

Rideshare Services

Rideshare services are another convenient mode of local travel.

You can download the apps for these services from the following websites:

Zipcars

Zipcars are available for rental 24/7 at various locations on Rice campus. All drivers (including international drivers) must be 18 years old and have a good driving record to qualify for this service.

  • Qualifying students, faculty, and staff can get a Zipcar membership for $25/year. (They also receive $45 in driving credit.)
  • This cost includes gas and insurance.
  • Rental prices vary depending on the timing of your trip (e.g. weekday or weekend) and the car you choose.

Transit Options to Airport

Wingz is a company that allows you to schedule trips to the airport weeks and months in advance.

They will pick you up from your address, and drop you off in front of your terminal.

From Rice University, you can expect to pay about $30 to Hobby (HOU) and $47 to George Bush International (IAH).