As someone from a small town (as in, I can’t get groceries without running into half of my graduating class), one of the things I was most excited about when I started college was getting to live in a bigger city like Baltimore.
But growing up in a small town also meant that I had absolutely no experience navigating public transportation. The first few weeks of my freshman year, I opted to stay in the Hopkins bubble instead of facing the slightly overwhelming realm of bus route maps and Amtrak schedules.
Don’t do what I did. The handful of restaurants on St. Paul get old very quickly, and there are a variety of free public transport options available to Hopkins students that make Baltimore easy to explore. Here’s your comprehensive guide to getting around your new city!
The Charm City Circulator
The Circulator is the method of transportation I use most often, because it’s free and buses arrive reliably every ten minutes. Check the “Arrival” tab on the Charm City Circulator’s website to stay up-to-date with bus arrival times and delays. The 33rd Street-MedStar Union Memorial Hospital stop on the purple route is right across from Barnes & Noble. Other nearby purple route stops are on 31st and Art Museum Drive and 29th and St. Paul. I frequently use the purple route to get to the Inner Harbor, which has a lot of shops, restaurants and other attractions on the water. The orange route stops at a number of museums, the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus and the National Aquarium. The Circulator runs until 8 p.m. on weekdays, and until midnight on weekends, so make sure you’re back early, or have an alternate method of transportation to get you back to campus.
Blue Jay Shuttles
Running from 5:30 p.m. to 3:45 a.m. every day, these free shuttles are the easiest way to navigate the area directly surrounding the Homewood campus and are great for running day-to-day errands. Two fleets of buses follow set routes, which will take you to Giant if you need to go grocery shopping and various off-campus apartments, like the Guilford and Hopkins House. If these routes don’t suit you, buses also leave from Brody every 15 minutes — just let the driver where you’d like to be dropped off, as long as it’s within the Blue Jay Shuttle service area. Another convenient service you can take advantage of is Night Ride. Call 410-516-8700, let the dispatcher know your current location and your destination, and a shuttle will come pick you up. Occasionally dispatchers will send a Lyft instead; they’ll let you know via text when your car arrives, and the service is still completely free.
The Homewood-Peabody-JHMI Shuttle, or the “Jimmy,” is another free bus that will take you to each of the Hopkins campuses in Baltimore. The JHMI arrives every 20 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. on weekdays, and starts running a little later on weekends. Some of the more convenient stops are right in front of Charles Commons and the Interfaith Center. This bus is perfect for students who do research at the Medical campus, or for those who want to see the George Peabody Library from all the brochures in person (I definitely recommend this; it’s stunning). The JHMI also stops at Penn Station, which means it overlaps with the Circulator’s routes.
MARC and Amtrak trains
MARC trains depart from Penn Station and will take you to a variety of locations across Maryland, including BWI Airport and Union Station in D.C. While they’re not free, MARC trains are relatively affordable — you can get to the airport for just $5, and a ticket to D.C. costs $8 — making them perfect if you want to take a day trip to the nation’s capital. If you’re planning on traveling outside of Maryland, Amtrak trains also depart from Penn Station. The Acela line will take you to major east coast cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia and is ideal for getting you back to your hometown or for booking a mini vacation.