St. Louis isn’t a particularly congested city, so getting around with or without a car isn’t too tough.
The Metrolink rail system is St. Louis’ limited but surprisingly punctual answer to NYC’s MTA or Chicago’s L trains. Unlike these larger systems, the Metrolink is composed of only two partially-overlapping lines: Red and Blue. The red line services the northwest portion of the city, terminating at Terminal 1 of St. Louis airport. The blue line services the Southwest portion of the city, passing through the Clayton and Brentwood shopping areas (including the Galleria mall) before terminating in the suburb of Shrewsbury.
All Washington University in St. Louis students who sign up each semester receive a free metro pass, affording them unlimited rides on the system. Many students use the Metro to commute between the medical and Danforth campuses or to and from work from their apartment. During most hours and on weekends, trains on each line arrive at 20-minute intervals. However, during peak travel hours, this frequency is increased to one train every 12 minutes. The good news is that, for people commuting between two stops serviced by both lines (most of East St. Louis through the Forest Park/DeBaliviere stop), the interval between trains is cut in half. As I mentioned earlier, trains are typically within 30 seconds of their scheduled arrival, so frequent riders can time their rides with an impressive amount of precision.
There is also a bus system that provides transportation to areas not reached by the train. The #1 Gold, #13 Union, #18 Taylor, #59 Shaw and #95 Kingshighway buses all service the medical school.
As alluded to earlier, Washington University offers a free U-Pass to full-time students. This pass provides free and unlimited rides on all Metro services, which includes light rail and buses. To register for the U-Pass, you must be registered as a full-time student with the appropriate number of credits. Sign up online here, and pick the Olin pickup option. You need to register for three U-Passes per year; Spring, Summer, and Fall.
TO CAR OR NOT TO CAR?
Although most students to opt to buy a car during their tenure in St. Louis due to their affordability on Wash U’s generous stipend, it certainly isn’t a requirement, especially if you live within walking distance of a Metrolink ride from the medical campus. Consequently, most students without cars choose to live in the Central West End (CWE). Another alternative would be biking, which in St. Louis is easy. Recent initiatives have made biking safer and more convenient downtown and throughout the DeBaliviere neighborhood. Many streets have numerous signs encouraging cars to share the road with bikers, and it is not uncommon to see people biking to campus and around the city. This is also nice, as Forest Park has miles of biking trails. There are also trails along the Mississippi River and in surrounding regions. Biking is a good alternative to driving.
If you do decide to drive to work, parking permits for the medical school are available at the Transportation Services Office in the outer lobby of the Becker Medical Library. Parking permits cost $50 to $104 per month depending on whether the permit is for a surface lot or a covered garage, and for a reserved or unreserved spot. Anyone with an ID badge (your student ID) can park in either the metro or Taylor/Clayton garage on weekends and after 2 p.m. on weekdays. Medical school permits also allow you to park in yellow or green zones on the Danforth Campus — a perk when you are a TA for undergraduate classes.
Carpooling and vanpooling permits are available at a reduced cost. More information about parking is available by calling (314) 362-6824, visiting the Facilities website, or via email. The medical school website also contains links to maps and schedules for the lot shuttles.
Note: The CWE parking meter readers are everywhere and love giving $10 tickets. Also, the streets are cleaned once a month. Check street signs for cleaning days, or you could get a ticket! It can be difficult to find street parking after 8 a.m. near campus, so arrive early and be ready to walk a few blocks if you decide not to purchase a parking permit. If you do receive a ticket, make sure to pay it quickly; the fine jumps from $10 to $20 and $40 after a few weeks of delinquency.
LICENSE AND REGISTRATION
If you’re going to be in St. Louis a while, it’s worth getting your license and registration transferred to the State of Missouri. Although you might be used to vising a Department of Motor Vehicles, the State of Missouri actually refers to their registration offices as branches of the Department of Revenue (DOR). Both license and registration requests can be handled at any location.
If you want a new license to replace a current out-of-state license, remember:
Most students visit the DOR branch located within the AAA office at 3917 Lindell Blvd., which can be reached by phone at (314) 533-6550.
If you have a current out-of-state license, you will need to take an eye exam (bring your glasses if you wear them) and a brief written exam asking you to identify of common road signs.
You will need your Social Security card and another form of identification (your old license would be good)
If you don’t have a current out-of-state driver’s license, you will need to take a more extensive written exam and a driving test. The written exam is 25 questions, and you need to answer 80 percent correctly to pass. However, before you take these exams, you should study the Missouri Rules of the Road driver’s guide, which you can find online or get at any Highway Patrol Driver License Examination Station, either before you arrive or immediately before taking your exam.
If you want to register your car, the process is a little more complicated. Typically, most students visit city hall on Market Street downtown as a one-stop-shop to complete all the steps they need. To register, you will need:
A safety test and an emissions test no more than 60 days before you register your car. The same facility will often do both tests, which cost $36 total. You can find locations that will perform the test here. For the tests, call the Department of Natural Resources at (314) 301-7100 or see its website for the nearest emissions-testing center near you. A few options in the CWE include Johnson’s Auto Care shop next to BP station on Newstead and Laclede, the Jiffy Lube on South Kingshighway, or Wicke Auto Service.
A personal property tax waiver at the City of St. Louis Assessor’s Office, 1200 Market St. downtown, (314) 622-4171, or another branch. Bring your old registration or title; there is no charge. If you have just bought the car, you may have to pay sales tax, unless you can prove that you paid it in the state of purchase. For more information, call the number above.Note: If you live in St. Louis City, you must go to a branch in the city. If you live outside the city, you must go to the county office.
Take your tax waiver (or, if a current Missouri resident, proof that you have paid Missouri personal property tax on your car), safety and emissions test results, proof of insurance, plus identification to a Department of Revenue Motor Vehicle Marine and Drivers License office or to the AAA station listed above. Registration costs about $30 per year. You will have the option to register and obtain tabs for your car for two years, depending on the model year of your car; even model years get renewed on even ears, etc. Note: Safety and emissions tests are only required every other year.
SHUTTLES AND BUSSES
The Metro bus #1 Gold runs at regular intervals between the Danforth and medical campuses, with stops along the route, from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and weekends. The #2 Red bus serves areas both south and west of the Danforth Campus. Your orientation packet will contain a map of the Metro system. Generally, they depart every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes in the evening. Check metrostlouis.org for comprehensive information on these bus lines. Washington University also operates shuttles originating from the Danforth Campus that access the neighborhoods surrounding the Delmar Loop. Your ID and U-Pass are needed to board the shuttles for free, so don’t forget them.
There is a new Washington University School of Medicine ride-home service, offering students and employees free transportation to their homes in the DeBaliviere Place and Skinker/DeBaliviere/Parkview neighborhoods.
HAVING A CAR WITHOUT OWNING ONE
Although getting around St. Louis is easy and free, sometimes it becomes necessary to have a car for random tasks. In such instances there are some options, like calling up a friend with a car and begging for help or getting a car for several hours. Yes, now you can have a car without owning it, all thanks to WeCar, a car-sharing program implemented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car. To experience it, you register by filling out an online form and faxing a copy of your driver’s license. The application and registration fees are waived for Washington University students. To get a car, simply book the car online, unlock the car at your booking time with your membership card, and drive away. When you are done, bring the car to the original parking spot and lock it with your membership card. And all this for $5/hour! The price includes gas and liability coverage. For longer durations you can rent the cars for $20/night or $60/day. The cars are located conveniently in the medical school parking lot (outside McDonnell Medical Sciences Building) and also at the various parking lots and garages on the Danforth Campus.
Uber and Lyft both operate in St. Louis and make it very easy for people to move about the city. Cabs are also available, including County Cab and Yellow Cab (314) 993-TAXI and Laclede Cab, (314) 652-3456.