Getting Around Town
Houston has two major airports: Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Hobby Airport (HOU). Intercontinental is an international airport that is about a 45-minute drive from the Medical Center in average traffic. Hobby airport serves as a domestic airport and it is about a 25-minute drive from the Medical Center.
Airport Express runs a shuttle service to both airports. The drop-off and pick-up point for the TMC is the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites (6800 Main Street). The cost for Intercontinental Airport is $20 and for Hobby it is $15. A cab to or from the airport will cost about $30 to Hobby and $50 to Intercontinental. The phone number for Airport Express is 713-523-8888.
If you need a cab around Houston, you should call for one--it’s unusual to be able to hail one from the street corner:
United Cab (accept credit cards) 713-699-0000
Yellow Cab 713-236-1111
Many students use Metropolitan Transit Authority, or METRO buses to navigate throughout the town. A bus ride costs $1 each way (inside the loop). METRO offers Park & Ride Services (for $2 - 4 each way depending on location) from several locations in Houston to downtown, the Galleria, Greenway Plaza, and the TMC. For information on routes, schedules, and fares call METRO at 713-635-4000. At your request, they will mail you a general route map, plus schedules for routes of specific interest. This is a particularly useful mode of transportation in condoland as the buses go by most complexes and have a stop right in front of Baylor. The MetroRail (train) is a new option that opened in January 2004. It costs $1 each way and runs approximately every six minutes. The train runs from just outside the 610 loop on Fannin to downtown with several stops in the Medical Center.
The popular U-Pass program has been discontinued, but once you receive your Baylor ID, you'll be able to ride Metro for half price.
Web site: http://ridemetro.org (easy to access route schedules and changes)
Houston freeways can be a little scary if you aren’t used to fast paced traffic, and they get very congested during rush hours (7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.). Make sure you keep yourself updated and on top of construction. A couple of things to keep in mind, almost all freeways in Houston have feeder roads (also called frontage roads), these are continuous roads, which run alongside the freeways and feed onto or off the freeways. Secondly, most of the freeways have local names (most businesses will use these names in describing their location):
- I-45 (north of downtown) = North Freeway
- I-45 (south of downtown) = Gulf Freeway
- I-10 (east of downtown) = East Freeway
- I-10 (west of downtown) = Katy Freeway
- 59 (north of downtown) = Eastex Freeway
- 59 (south of downtown) = Southwest Freeway
- I-610 = The Loop (N., E., S., and W.)
Get a map of Houston as soon as you get to town. “Key maps” are convenient maps compiled as a book which give details of every region in Houston. They are usually in the $20 range and available at Sam’s Club or the Key map store on Alabama. You will find that once you get settled into an area (especially around the Medical Center), you can get almost everything you need or want within a few miles.
Some streets near the TMC change names as they go along:
- Bellaire becomes Holcombe (at Buffalo Speedway)
- S. Braeswood becomes N. MacGregor Drive (at Holcombe)
- N. Braeswood runs into Beechnut (at the West Loop)
- Stella Link Road becomes Weslayan (at Holcombe)
- Montrose becomes Studemont (at Allen Parkway) and Studewood (at I-10)
- Hillcroft becomes Voss (at Westheimer) and then Bingle (at I-10)
- Elgin (downtown) becomes Westheimer
- Kirby becomes Allen Parkway (at Shepherd Dr.)
Many students ride bicycles to school (the most convenient and cheapest parking available at the TMC). Bike trails are few and far between in Houston, so if you choose to bike, you will be biking on streets. With a little work however, you can probably find a route that avoids busy streets for the most part. If you decide to ride:
There is a city ordinance requiring bike owners to register their bike. You can register your bike ($1) at one of several fire stations that participate in this program…call your local station to see if they provide this service.
For parking your bike around Baylor, bike racks can be found in several places: inside the entrance to Garage 6, behind the Jewish wing, and in front of the DeBakey Building. It is HIGHLY recommended that you get a horseshoe shaped lock (Kryptonite or Citadel, for example), as bikes have been stolen from these racks in the past.
Please be SURE to wear a helmet and if you ride at night, some sort of front and back lights.
The Braes Bayou Bike Trail follows Braes Bayou from Gessner, past the TMC, almost all the way to the University of Houston. If it goes where you want to go, it's a great way to avoid traffic.
Parking at Texas Medical Center:
Parking around the medical center is pretty expensive and relatively inconvenient. Students can get parking permits for the Southlands Parking lot and take the MetroRail in to the Medical Center; to get a permit you must have paperwork proving your status from the Personnel Office (Don't worry about this yet, we will walk you through the process during orientation). The cost for parking in the Brown Lot is approximately $60 + tax per month. A Brown Lot permit includes the privilege of parking after hours (6 p.m. - 8 a.m. on weekdays and the whole weekend) in either Garage 4 (next to the DeBakey building) or Garage 6 (next to the Smith building)--be sure to request which garage you want after hours parking in when you get your permit. You can buy just an after hours parking permit for either of these garages for approximately $35 + tax per month (4 p.m. - 4 a.m. on weekdays and the whole weekend). Please DO NOT abuse these privileges…they have been revoked in the past for this reason.
METRO currently provides a free shuttle service from the parking lot to various points around the Medical Center. The shuttle is a standard METRO bus labeled RED route (has a stop right next to Baylor). It runs from 5 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday: most frequently during rush hours, but the interval between buses is never longer than 20 minutes. However, it will only run for a few more months as it is being replaced by the MetroRail (which also goes into the medical center). Your parking pass provides free rides from the parking lot to the medical center on the train.
Visitor/Day parking is available in the Brown Lot, located by the Old Spanish Trail entrance for $4/day; parking in Garages 4 and 6 is available on an hourly basis ($1 per 20 minutes up to $10 per day). These are good options if you plan to drive only once in a while.
All students with a Baylor I.D. can park in Lot D and E (in front of the Cullen Building) from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday – Thursdays and weekends from Friday 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Monday. This is great parking for weekends and when you are working late; however, it does fill up quickly, especially during Grand Rounds.
If you have special parking needs or a temporary problem (a broken leg, for example), call TMC parking at 713-790-9022 and explain your situation. They may be able to help you out in some way.
Out-of-state residents do not need a Texas driver's license if they are full time students and maintain a valid out-of-state license. If you wish to be a resident, you must have one within 30 days of moving to the state. If you want a Texas driver's license, you must have your old license, proof of inspection, proof of registration, and a detailed copy of your insurance. The license costs about $20 and is valid for 4 years. The change of address fee is $10. For locations and phone numbers of all Department of Public Safety offices in Houston, please visit their web site at www.txdps.state.tx.us/
A special license required for motorcycles or mopeds can be obtained at the same locations. You will have to take both the written and the driving test. The DPS has a handbook to prepare you for the written test. For the road test, you must bring a car and a driver to convey the examining officer during the test. Both the car and the motorcycle must have the required inspection stickers, registration, insurance, lights, etc.
If you do not have a driver's license or have an expired license, you will have to take the road test. You will be given an appointment for the road test after you have passed the written. Unless you get an early start, there is a chance you won't be able to take both on the same day. Be prepared to devote at least half a day to this adventure.
Your car must be legal when you take the road test--valid inspection sticker, registration, and proof of liability insurance. Your car will be inspected (lights, brakes, etc.) and if anything is out of order, you will have to get it fixed before you can take the road test.
If you don't want a driver's license, but you still need a local picture I.D. for purposes of cashing checks, getting into bars, etc., the DPS also issues Texas I.D. cards (information can be found on the DPS website).
Gotta have it--shop around--good luck. Auto insurance in Harris County (Houston) is expensive. If you are eligible to remain insured at your permanent address, this may be advantageous.
All car and truck front-seat passengers are required to wear seatbelts. It is the responsibility of the front-seat passengers to wear the seatbelt, and they are subject to fine, not the driver. Children under four or who weigh less than 40 pounds must sit in child-restraining seats; children under 15 must wear seatbelts at all times or drivers are subject to fine. There is no longer a warning for the first offense.
Out-of-state students are not required to register their cars in Texas or obtain Texas license plates; however, you must have valid plates, registration, and inspection stickers from wherever you are registered (it costs ~$60-$70 for registration and ~$40 for inspection). If you live fairly far away and have to get your car inspected every year, you might just want to register in Texas when your renewal is up. After the first time, you can renew your registration by mail, or even at the grocery store, and inspections can be done at many gas stations around town.
License plates can be purchased through the Tax Accessor’s Offices (www.dot.state.tx.us). These are located downtown and at other varying locations. If you decide to register your car in Texas and get a drivers’ license here, there is a specific order to complete these steps that is different from most states.
- Get auto insurance,
- Get inspection sticker,
- Register car, and
- Get license.
Any attempt to deviate from this order of steps will lead to much frustration.