Are parking prices choking you? Is commuting cheaper than living on-campus, but you’re still feeling the cost in gas prices? I know how you feel.
As a cheap girl who grew up pinching pennies in creative ways, I wasn’t about to roll over and let UH parking take my money. But as a commuter, leaving my car at home wasn’t an option. So I had to get creative.
Lucky for me, the cause of my distress was also the source of my salvation. Right there, on the UH parking permits page, I saw it: the Q Card.
Anyone familiar with the Houston METRO is familiar with the little orange METRO cards. Either you own one, or you’ve seen people tapping them to posts at the ends of each station. You can load them up either at a kiosk or online and tap the card every time you need to pay for a ride. It is efficient and (in a time of COVID) 100 times more sanitary than putting your fingers all over a grimy kiosk to pay for a metro ticket.
But wait, it gets better. As a student at the University of Houston, you have the option to get a special Q card through the University. This one rocks, specifically because it allows you to only pay $0.60 per ride.
So how does one go about getting this Shasta-approved Q Card? The first step is to log in to your Access UH account and click on the parking icon. From there, you’re going to click on the ‘permits’ tab in the upper left-hand corner, then click on ‘get permits.’
Then, click on the last red link. It’ll read METRO Card/pass & bicycle permit. Fill out the form as prompted. You won’t be charged for anything upon checkout, but you will receive a confirmation email like you would with any other parking permit purchase.
As stated in your email and on the website, your Q Card will be ready by 2 p.m. on the next business day. Then, you can just stroll up to the University Lofts Parking Office. Where is that, you may ask? It’s situated in the same building as the Lofts, of course. It’s the corner office that used to be a bookstore some time ago. Easy to find, you can’t miss it.
Once inside, a staff member will greet you, then dig around in the back until they find your Q Card.
The student card will have the UH logo stamped on the back, as well as your name and student number. Welcome to the club.
Now it’s time to put some money on this bad boy. You could do it online at RideMETRO.com, but the funds are sometimes not available until one or two days after, so I don’t recommend doing this if you plan on using your card soon. Instead, try loading it in person at a kiosk.
There’s a kiosk at every METRORail station. You’re going to put your card into a slot located at the upper left-hand corner of the machine.
The screen will prompt you to choose an amount to load. You can choose to add $5, $10, $15, $20 and so on. You can pay in cash, credit or debt. And just like that, you’re done!
Don’t forget to tap your Q Card before getting on the rail. It should deduct $0.60 from your card, and the screen on the machine will be sure to inform you of your remaining balance. Now you’re ready to ride!
The fare is valid for three hours, and it is transferable to any rail or station until that time is up. If you need to ride again after the initial three hours, all you need to do is tap again.
Now here’s the best part about riding the METRO into campus; you don’t have to park on campus. Lots of stations have separate places to park. If it’s not an official METRO lot, you can just park for free and ride in at your leisure. The downside is that there’s no security, so your car and belongings are left at the mercy of God. The best you can do is hide your valuables or take them with you and hope for the best.
If the lot is METRO property, parking will only cost you $2 in addition to your fare, but it comes with the benefit of 24 hour security, giving you a bit more peace of mind that your car will be OK without you.
I hope this article has been helpful to you, and that you take advantage of the savings the METRORail can offer you as a student. I’ve had a lot of fun on the rail ever since I was a teen. I associate it with rides to NRG for Warped Tour or the rodeo, and just trips into town with friends for free museum days. And now, I’m saving hundreds a year on parking thanks to the trusty rail. I hope you can too.