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 July 1, 2017) cost between $176 - $876 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 Ride Systems 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 2017, prices averaged around $2.50/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. Over the next two years, the program is expected to triple in size.

Houston BCycle has 56 bike stations throughout central Houston, including four 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 $500, 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 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 $35 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).

Here is a short guide about various places in Houston

All directions are indicated by [brackets], and take Rice University as their point of origin.

Restaurants

ANDALUCIA TAPAS & TAVERNA (Casual $) This is a fun place for authentic Spanish tapas (both hot and cold) which is perfect for sharing. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Bell Station – walk 5 blocks to 1201 San Jacinto St.]

AXELRAD BEER GARDEN (Casual $-$$) This is a wonderland of food, music, and libations. There are picnic tables, hammocks, and an indoor lounge area. Come play board games with friends, listen to live music, and enjoy a balmy Houston evening! [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Ensemble/HCC Station – walk 8 blocks to 1517 Alabama St.]

BODEGA’S TACO SHOP (Casual $) A great place to get a fast lunch and choose all your topping to go on your tacos, burritos, and nachos. They’re also famous for having over ten different types of salsas! [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Museum District Station – walk 1 block to 1200 Binz St.]

THE BREAKFAST KLUB (Casual $) This is a MUST Houston food experience. Expect to wait in a long line that wraps around the restaurant on weekends, but it is well worth the wait to have some of their famous wings and waffles! [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Ensemble/HCC Station – walk 4 blocks to 3711 Travis St]

COCO’S CREPES & COFFEE (Casual $) A great place to get crepes—sweet or savory! You’ll see plenty of laptops and with their free wi-fi and great coffee, this is a perfect place to study off campus. [RICE VILLAGE – 2339 University Blvd]

CYCLONE ANAYA’S (Casual/Semi-Formal $$) Located in Rice Village, Cyclone Anaya’s serves offers delicious Tex-Mex food in a fun environment honoring the wrestling champion, Cyclone Anaya. [RICE VILLAGE – 5214 Morningside]

FRANK’S PIZZA (Casual $) A great place for a slice of pizza and famous for their hand-tossed crusts. They’re open late (until 3 a.m.) for the night owls! [RAIL – Red Line: Preston Station – walk 2 blocks to 417 Travis St.]

THE GROVE (Semi-Formal $$) Right in the middle of Discovery Green park is a wonderful, upscale restaurant very reminiscent of our own Brochstein Pavillion. With all the glass walls, it has a great view of the park and on nice days, you can sit on the roof to enjoy your meal. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Main Street Square Station – walk 6 blocks to 1611 Lamar St.]

HEARSAY GASTRO LOUNGE (Casual/Semi-Formal $$) Located in a historic building (built in 1889) originally set to be destroyed in the early 90s, this venue has all the history and charm of Houston. The restaurant focuses on upscale pub fare and is a great place to enjoy a night out on the town. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Preston Station – walk 2 blocks to 218 Travis St.]

IBIZA FOOD & WINE (Semi-Formal $$$) If you’re looking for a modern, upscale restaurant, look no further! With delicious food and a romantic ambiance, this restaurant is sure to impress. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – McGowen Station – walk 3 blocks to 2450 Louisiana St.]

IRMA’S SOUTHWEST GRILL (Casual/Semi-Formal $) This small Tex-Mex restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch during the weekdays, but they’re especially famous for their stopping in before an Astro’s game. They open up 3 hours before each Astro’s game to fill you up for all 9 innings. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Central Station Main – walk 6 blocks to 1314 Texas Ave.]

LAKE HOUSE (Casual $) This is a family-friendly café, perfect for grabbing a quick bite. They also have ice cream and milk shakes for those extra hot days in the summer, so when you’re enjoying a day in Discovery Green, you can still relax and cool off. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Main Street Square Station – walk 5 blocks to 1600 McKinney St.]

LES GIVRAL’S (Casual $) Known for their stellar Vietnamese cuisine, particularly their bhan mis (sandwiches) and pho (noodle soup), this restaurant is a staple for fast, affordable food. *Note: Valhalla serves their bhan mis during lunch and dinner. [RAIL – Red Line – Northbound – Preston Station – walk 3 blocks to 2704 Milam St.]

LOCAL FOODS (Casual $$) Located in Rice Village, Local Foods is a growing Houston franchise, well-known for their delicious, organic, gourmet sandwiches, quinoa salad, and mint limeade. [RICE VILLAGE – 2424 Dunstan Rd.]

MCCORMICK & SCHMICKS (Semi-Formal $$$) Living near the Gulf of Mexico definitely has its advantages—like great seafood! This is a great spot for a nice meal with great, fresh seafood. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Bell Station – walk 3 blocks to 1201 Fannin St.]

REEF (Semi-Casual $$) This award winning restaurant is known for great seafood and a fun weekend crowd, complete with DJ. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – McGowen Station – walk 2 blocks to 2600 Travis St.]

SAMBUCA (Casual/Semi-Formal $$) While they are also a restaurant, they’re actually known for their great live music. They have bands that vary from jazz to zydeco to latin and plenty of dancing going on. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Central Station Main – walk 3 blocks to 909 Texas Ave.].

TACOS A GO-GO (Casual $) This is a local favorite for great, cheap food and eclectic décor. They’re also open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays for your late night fix. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Ensemble/HCC Station – walk 2 blocks to 3704 S. Main St]

T’AFIA (Semi-Formal $$) Award winning Monica Pope has her restaurant focusing on the use of local food to prepare unique dishes. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Ensemble/HCC Station – walk 2 blocks to 3701 Travis St.]

THIRD COAST (Semi-Formal $$$) As the only fine dining restaurant in the Texas Medical Center, this may be a perfect place to unwind and get a great view of the city while eating homemade Italian. [WALK across the street to 6550 Bertner Ave.]

VIC & ANTHONY’S STEAKHOUSE (Semi-Formal $$$) Famous for their steaks and seafood, this is a great place to go if you’re a carnivore looking to enjoy a Texas sized meal. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Central Station Main – walk 6 blocks to 1510 Texas Ave.]

Cultural Sites & Recreation

ALLEN’S LANDING (Casual FREE) Often described as “Houston’s Plymouth Rock,” Allen’s Landing is the birthplace of Houston. This historic spot overlooks White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou and features a revitalized concrete paved wharf, promenade, walking trails and a terrace overlooking the bayou. This is also home to a celebration of Houston’s Asian-American community. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Preston Station – walk 2 blocks to 1005 Commerce St.]

BBVA COMPASS STADIUM (Houston Dynamo & Dash) (Casual $-$$) Come watch Houston’s Major League Soccer teams Dynamo (men) and Dash (women). They keep Houston in the game! [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Central Station Main – Green Line: Eastbound – EaDo/Stadium Station]

BUFFALO SOLDIERS NATIONAL MUSEUM (Casual/Semi-Formal $, FREE on Thursdays) The BNSM aims to promote and preserve the history, traditions, and outstanding contributions of America’s Buffalo Soldiers from the Revolutionary War to the Present. http://www.buffalosoldiermuseum.com/ [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Ensemble/HCC Station – walk 6 blocks to 3816 Caroline St.]

CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF HOUSTON (Casual FREE on Thursdays, $) Renown throughout the US for its exhibits, your children will definitely enjoy all the interactive games that will help make learning fun! Admission is free Thursday evenings from 5-8pm. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Museum District Station – walk 4 blocks to 1500 Binz St.]

CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON (Casual FREE) With many exhibits rotating through this museum and their famous gift shop (perfect for finding unique gifts), this is a great way to spend an afternoon. Free to general public. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Museum District Station – walk 4 blocks to 5216 Montrose Blvd.]

DISCOVERY GREEN PARK (Casual FREE) Houston’s downtown park is guaranteed to have something for everyone, including a sprinkler system for kids, ice skating in the winter, yoga in the park, concerts, art projects, farmer’s market and two restaurants. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Main Street Square Station – walk 6 blocks to 1500 McKinney St.]

THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE (Casual/Semi-Formal $-$$) This is the largest African-American professional theatre company in the U.S. with affordable tickets and plenty of culture. http://www.ensemblehouston.com/index.html [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Ensemble/HCC Station – walk to 3535 Main St.]

GEORGE R. BROWN CONVENTION CENTER (Depends on event $-$$$) Serving as the main convention center for Houston, you’ll see conferences, tradeshows, marathons, concerts, and plenty of other events throughout the year available to meet all interests! [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Main Street Square – walk 7 blocks to 1001 Avenida de las Americas]

THE HEALTH MUSEUM (Casual $, FREE on Thursdays) This is a unique opportunity to be interactive with health education and to learn more about the human body! Visitors enjoy free general admission on Thursdays from 2 to 5 p.m. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Museum District Station – walk 4 blocks to 1515 Hermann Dr.]

HERMANN PARK (Casual FREE) This is a huge park (over 445 acres!) with a Japanese Garden, picnic areas, lakes, a golf course, a gift shop, even a train for children! It is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon with a bunch of friends. [WALK 3 blocks to 6001 Fannin St.]

HOLOCAUST MUSEUM (Casual $, FREE on Sundays) This museum focuses on the dangers of prejudice and hatred in society. Free to general public. [RAIL – Red Line: Southbound – Fannin South Station – walk 4 blocks to 9220 Kirby Dr.]

HOUSTON CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY CRAFT (Casual FREE) If you’re looking for a unique place to see art made of various mediums (including of glass, fiber, clay, metal or wood). Free to general public. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Wheeler Station – walk 3 blocks to 4848 S. Main St.]

HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE (Casual $, FREE with Rice ID) This museum has something for everyone! They have an IMAX theatre, great traveling exhibitions, the famous butterfly exhibit, and some amazing permanent exhibits. The museum is free Tuesdays from 2-5pm, but the permanent exhibits are free every day for Rice students with their ID. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Museum District Station – walk 4 blocks to 5555 Hermann Park Dr.]

LAWNDALE ART CENTER (Casual FREE) A great place to come and support contemporary arts in Houston. They’re especially famous for The Big Show which is open to all Houston artists. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Wheeler Station – walk 6 blocks to 4912 S. Main St.]

LEVY PARK (Casual FREE) A fantastic park for kids, adults, and dogs! There are always food trucks, activities, and events. Visit their website for more information: http://levyparkhouston.org [RIDESHARE is probably the best way to get there. In fact, you’ll have the advantage over car drivers because parking is usually tight.]

THE MENIL COLLECTION (Casual/Semi-Formal FREE) This museum houses approximately 17,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and rare books. It specializes in surrealist works by painters such as Rene Magritte and Max Ernst, contemporary art by Cy Twombly and Jackson Pollock, as well as antiquities of Byzantine and Medieval cultures. [BUS – #56 Greenspoint TC – from: Main St. @ University Blvd – to: Montrose Blvd @ Branard St. – walk 4 blocks to 1533 Sul Ross St.]

MILLER OUTDOOR THEATRE (Casual FREE) Ever wanted to watch Shakespeare in the park or listen to an orchestra under the stars? Well, this the perfect place then! Bring a blanket and some snacks to enjoy all the free music and dance performances from April through October (weather permitting). For a calendar of events, go here: http://milleroutdoortheatre.com/events/month/ [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Hermann Park/Rice U – walk 1/3 mile to 6000 Hermann Park Dr.]

MINUTE MAID PARK (Houston Astro’s) (Casual $-$$) Enjoy America’s favorite pastime by watching the 2017 World Series Champions, the Houston Astros, play in a retractable roof stadium! Baseball season is from April through October and this is a great way to feel like a true Houstonian! [RAIL – Red Line: Preston Station – walk 8 blocks to 501 Crawford St.]

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON (Casual $, FREE with Rice ID) This museum is the 6th largest art museum in the US and has more than 30 changing exhibits every year. While general admission is free on Thursdays, it is free to Rice students at any time with their Rice ID card. [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Museum District Station – walk 1 block to 1001 Bissonet St.]

NASA JOHNSON SPACE CENTER (Casual $$$) This space museum emphasizes space exploration history and STEM education in fun ways. Be sure to take the tour that includes the room where Apollo missions communicated with Houston (a la “Houston, we have a problem.”)! [CARPOOL – Honestly, this is one where you’ll be better off with a car. From Rice, it’s a bit of a drive to 2101 E. NASA Pkwy. It’s worth the trouble! OISS also organizes a group trip to the Space Center twice every year!!]

NRG RELIANT STADIUM (Casual $-$$) As home of our professional football team, the Houston Texans, you can catch a exciting game here during the season (August through January). This is also home to the famous Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the largest in the world! [RAIL – Red Line: Southbound – Stadium Park/Astrodome Station – walk 5 blocks to NRG Pkwy]

ROTHKO CHAPEL (Casual/Semi-Formal FREE) People come from around the world to visit this unique non-denominational chapel. Rothko Chapel is a silent, peaceful space open to everyone. It invites you to focus inward, to let go of the chaos of the world, and to enjoy a green space and works of art by renowned painter Mark Rothko. http://rothkochapel.org/ [BUS – #56 Greenspoint TC – from: Main St. @ University Blvd – to: Montrose Blvd @ Branard St. – walk 4 blocks to 1409 Sul Ross St.]

THEATER DISTRICT (Semi-Formal/Formal $-$$$) This expansive, 17 block area is home to 9 different performance organizations including Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Alley Theatre and Houston Symphony. *Note: Rice students can use the Passport to Houston program to receive discounts on many of the performing arts events. [RAIL – Red Line: Preston Station – walk 6 blocks to 615 Texas Ave.]

TOYOTA CENTER (Houston Rockets) (Casual $-$$$) Come watch the pros play! This is the home of our professional basketball team. Don’t miss any of the action—tickets can be very affordable, especially for groups! [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Bell Station – walk 6 blocks to 1510 Polk St.]

Shopping

HOUSTON PAVILIONS (Depends on venue $-$$$) Think of it as a mall in the heart of downtown! They have a bunch of restaurants, shops, and activities to participate in including Books-A-Million (bookstore), Lucky Strike Lanes (bowling), and House of Blues (world famous music venue). [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Bell Station – walk 4 blocks to 1201 Fannin St.]

RICE FARMER’S MARKET (Casual $) With over 20 local farms showcased, this is a great place to look for local produce. No cash? No problem. You can purchase tokens at the market with a check, which you can use for purchases with vendors. http://dining.rice.edu/farmers-market/ Every Tuesday (rain or shine) from 3:30pm-6:30pm at Entrance 13B off of Greenbriar Dr. Parking is free!.

SIG’S LAGOON (Casual $) This eclectic record store has more than just music—be sure to check out all the bobbleheads! [RAIL – Red Line: Northbound – Ensemble/HCC Station – walk 2 blocks to 3622 Main St]

A (loose) dress code guide:
Casual: Jeans, flip flops
Casual/Semi-Formal: Nice jeans or slacks, nice shoes, or casual skirts/dresses for ladies
Semi–Formal: Slacks and button up shirt for gentlemen, skirt/dress/dress pants for ladies
Semi-Formal/Formal: Slacks, button up shirt, and tie (maybe whole suit) for gentlemen, dress or formal skirts for ladies
Estimated Cost Guide (including tip):
$ = Really affordable, $10 or less
$$ = Affordable, $11-20
$$$ = Pricey, $21 and up