Getting around UBC: An intro to transit on campus

Turns out, you don’t have to walk everywhere.

By Michaela Dunn, 3rd year Arts student

It’s a warm, windy day in early September. The air smells of hot pavement. I’m in first year, it’s my first week at UBC, and I’m in the middle of my first mission to stock up on snacks for my room. I hobble down East Mall for the fourth time, in flip-flops, a blue Student Housing lanyard dangling around my neck. I notice a blue and grey bus drive by. 

Onlookers—mostly upper-year students—sneak perplexed (or sympathetic?) glances as they watch me stumble, my shoulders slumping with the weight of four over-filled Save-On-Foods’ grocery bags grasped in each hand. A second bus passes by.

Now, you may be wondering: how on earth did I find myself in this situation? Who in their right mind would lug heavy groceries for two kilometres, on foot, from Wesbrook Village to Totem Park Residence twice in two hours? Not to mention the return trips.

The funny thing is, I’m from Toronto, Ontario, where transit is very much a thing. The concept of buses was not foreign to me. First year me, however, was painfully  unaware that transportation on campus existed—and it’s okay if you don’t know about it either! 

Transit on campus

During my first year (after I figured out they existed…) I depended on the trusty 68 and 70 bus routes. These two powerhouses were the backbone of the transit system on campus. With the launch of Translink’s Rapidbus service in January 2020, and the R4 bus, the campus transit landscape got something of a refresh.

Let me bring you up to speed:

  • The 70 is no more. 🚌😵
  • The 68 has a longer route, running via the west side of campus between the UBC Bus Exchange and Wesbrook Village.
  • For trips along Wesbrook Mall, take the 49—or the R4!

Now that those changes are out of the way, let’s get into what makes the 68 so helpful—nay, necessary—for taking care of business during your UBC years.

The 68

The 68 is a community shuttle bus that operates just like any other Translink bus. Simply tap your Compass Card (aka, your U-Pass) and enjoy the ride.

Take the 68 from Totem Park to that class at Buchanan. Take it for that early-morning swim at the Aquatic Centre. Heading for an adventure in Pacific Spirit Park, but want to save your energy for the actual run? The 68 will take you (most of the way) there too.

Where else does it go?

The 68 can also drop you off near ALL. THE. ATTRACTIONS. Suddenly, an excursion to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) or the Botanical Garden doesn’t seem quite as daunting.

And, hey, if in January you don’t want to compromise your snazzy Friday night outfit with your rain boots, umbrella and parka, the 68 will embrace you in a warm hug, give you a pat on the back, and drop you off right near your campus destination.

Here are some other key places you can visit:

  • Wesbrook Village
  • UBC Farm 
  • The Point
  • Koerner’s
  • The Student Rec Centre/the ARC
  • …and more!

How late does it run?

In case you find yourself studying on the other end of campus after dark, most nights the 68 runs every 20 minutes until between midnight and 1 am—just one of the ways to stay safe on campus after dark.

So remember, as long as you don’t forget to reload your U-Pass each month, the 68 is at your service—along with the 49 and the R4!

Accessibility Shuttle

If you have a temporary or permanent condition that affects your mobility, the 68 isn’t your only option for getting around. Cue the UBC Accessibility Shuttle, a free shared ride service, available by reservation, that can transport you to and from main pedestrian areas on campus. 

What about cycling? 

Yeah, I know, I said this post was about transit…but there’s another great option for getting around campus—besides your hoverboard. Check out UBC’s bike share program for those days where you’d rather cruise across campus and take a break from the usual 68 route. You can take your pick from HOPR bikes or Mobi bikes—including e-bikes!


Whether you’re walking, rolling, or cycling around the Vancouver campus, UBC’s recently launched online mapping tool will help you identify the best and most accessible route to get from point A to point B! 

The new wayfinding resource provides different navigation options, including finding a route based on accessibility requirements, and can identify barriers such as steep slopes, stairs, and doors that aren’t powered. If you’re cycling, the route can identify details such as ramps and the closest bike rack.  

Getting Off-Campus

Now that you’re well-versed in transportation options on campus, you’re ready to leave the nest. Luckily, you can get almost anywhere via the UBC Bus Exchange. Some key routes include:

  • The famous 99 B-line, which runs east-west on Broadway
  • The 44, which will get you downtown or connect you to the SeaBus for a North Shore adventure
  • The R4, which heads east on 41st Avenue and connects with the SkyTrain just a couple of stops away from Metrotown mall

All you have to do is tap your card, find a seat (if you can), and wait for the adventure to begin. Plan your journey online or, if you’re old-school, take a gander at the transit map. Check out this UBC Life blog post for a breakdown of bus routes, neighbourhoods and key destinations.

So when the day comes and you need to hit up Save-on-Foods for some supplies, get to the opposite end of campus without getting drenched, or go on a weekend excursion, don’t be first-week me. Save a little time (and frustration) by taking a ride on the 68 (or any one of UBC’s many transportation options). Your chariot awaits!

I’m Worried, My Student Hasn’t Returned My Calls

Concerned mother checking her phone

It is important to remember that this is a challenging and exciting time for your student. They’re juggling competing priorities—classes, friends and extra-curricular activities, not to mention the typical challenges of early adulthood—and can become distracted.

However, if you’re feeling worried or concerned because your student hasn’t returned your calls, here’s what you can do and how UBC Student Housing can help.

Urgent health or safety concerns

If you are concerned that your student is at risk, and you think an urgent health or safety check may be warranted, you will need to call 911 or the local police detachment (RCMP) at 604 224 1322. The police will attend and we will assist their efforts to locate and ensure the safety of your student. Please note that residence staff are unable to complete check ins of this nature.

If your student hasn’t returned your calls

If you do not think an urgent health or safety check may be warranted, but repeated efforts to contact your student have failed, and you are growing concerned about their wellbeing:

before 10:30 pm – Please call your student’s residence front desk. Within the following 24 hours, our staff will send a note to your student to inform them that you have phoned about their wellbeing and that you have requested they contact you.

after 10:30 pm – Please call the local police detachment (RCMP) at 604 224 1322. The police will attend and we will assist their efforts to locate and ensure the safety of your student.

Difficult transitions to life at UBC

On the other hand, if you are in touch with your student, but you are concerned that they are experiencing difficulty transitioning to UBC, you can contact your student’s Residence Life Manager (RLM). While RLMs are not able, without your student’s permission, to share specific information about your student with you, the RLM will listen and take your concerns seriously—and they will talk with you about our typical assistance in the circumstances you are describing. Additionally, our staff will reach out to your student, talk with them about how they’re doing and offer to help them access relevant campus services, supports and resources.

Find contact information for your student’s Residence Life Manager.

Your student’s privacy

We take parent, family, and friend concerns seriously, and we will follow up with your student. But please keep in mind that UBC is required to respect your student’s privacy. Without your student’s permission, we are not able to share information with you or phone you with an update about your student—even in the above situations.

My Favourite Study Spaces

Group of students studying together in library

By Julia Yang, UBC student

If you’ve ever been in your room with the intention of diving into study only to be drawn by the magnetic pull of the bed, then this article is for you. Succumbing to the familiar comfort of the bed too frequently may be detrimental to the health of your academics and, if you have one, your normal sleep schedule.

Sometimes all it takes to get into intense study mode is a change of scenery—finding that one place where your brain seems to magically click.

So here is a list of my favourite places (in no particular order) on and off campus to escape the lure of “the Bed” and to spend some quality study time!

Life Sciences Centre

The Life Sciences Centre on Health Sciences Mall is wonderful place to study because it’s not so quiet that you have to be self conscious opening your binder, but it’s not loud enough to feel irritation. There are two atriums with plenty of light, one with smaller round tables and the other with long wide tables. Speaking from personal experience, if you are an avid practitioner of study sprawling, then the long wooden tables will be an absolute delight for you! Plus, if a caffeine fix is desperately needed, there is Caffè Perugia located in the Centre and a Starbucks across the street.

It’s open from 7 am to 6 pm on weekdays, but unfortunately it’s closed on the weekends.

Ridington Room

Known more famously as the “Harry Potter” room due in large part to the paintings of past UBC presidents, it is one of four silent study rooms in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.  It has a calm and quiet atmosphere, and the high ceilings make the room feel large and airy which contributes at an overall relaxed environment. Like the Life Sciences Centre, the long tables in the Ridington Room make it a great place for study sprawlers. During sunny days, wonderful, warm sunshine peeks through the giant windows to remind you that, outside of that frustrating and table flipping course, all is still well.

Law Library

The Law Library is across from Buchanan and is a great place to get some quiet studying done. All three floors of the library have spaces for students to study and the chairs are quite comfortable to sit in for longer periods of time. The new building itself is visually pleasing and doesn’t have that funky, old building smell which I suppose is always a bonus (for those of you with sensitive noses, it actually smells quite nice).  If you get caught in a mind bind, the Law Café downstairs provides food for brain fuel and the movable book stacks in the library are a great distraction during breaks. Outside the library are seating areas for students who want to work on group projects or just study in each others’ company.

An important side note is that during exam period, certain areas of the library will be reserved for law students so just make sure to observe the signage to avoid the uncomfortable situation of being asked to vacate. Also, food and drinks (other than bottled water) are not allowed in the library in order to maintain its pristine and stink-free environment.

Walter Gage Commonsblock

The Walter Gage Commonsblock has a variety of different study spaces available to both students living on and off campus. Ruth Blair C is a quiet study room with mostly glass walls, so at times it may feel like being an exhibit at the aquarium.

The Izzy Mac Ballroom is a semi-silent study area that has mirrors covering opposite walls (like a dance studio) but is sometimes unavailable due to residence events.

Another semi-silent study is the Mary Murrin room which is great if you love to study in an environment that is mostly olive in colour (it’s honestly quite relaxing).

Ruth Blair A and B are smaller, separate rooms available for students to book at the front desk and can only be booked within the 24 hours prior to your chosen time.

The common area has many cozy couches and fairly large tables that are great for group study sessions and a mini mart to stock up on snacks. All study areas in Walter Gage Commonsblock are open 24 hours a day, which makes them great places to study with friends during exam season.

Feel free to check out these spots, escape from the comforts of your blanket and hopefully reconnect with 
your books!

Professor In Residence

Dr. Michael Griffin, an associate professor of Greek and Roman philosophy, lived in Totem Park as a member of the Professor in Residence program. We sat down with him to talk about the program.

What was your motivation for joining the program?

From my experience in first year at UBC, I remember how huge and sometimes faceless the university can feel, especially if your first encounter with faculty is from the back of a huge lecture hall. I was excited about the opportunity to connect with students outside the classroom, to put a human face on the faculty, and to bring an academic dimension to the social life of residence.

I did my doctorate at the University of Oxford, which features a college system that houses professors, grad students, and undergraduates across all disciplines in the same residences. That was a great opportunity for me to connect with researchers and interesting peers outside my area of academic interest and comfort zone, and I think the Professor in Residence program at UBC has a chance to do the same thing.

Dr. Michael GriffinHow has your experience been so far? 

Fantastic. The students and RAs, and my colleagues on the Residence Life team, have been amazingly welcoming.

I’ve enjoyed conversations about all kinds of subjects, and I’ve learned a great deal. My lecturing style has adapted based on discussions with students and watching my colleagues on the Academic Team (A-Team) work with students.

Dr. Michael GriffinWhat were some of the activities you ran last year? 

I ran a “pizza and ideas” film night each term. In Term 1 we watched The Matrix (1999) and talked about questions that film raised. I offered academic workshops on exam strategies, picking a major, and term papers, and I held regular office hours at a table in the Commonsblock. I also invited different floors and houses to dinner during the term to talk about their experience with faculty at UBC.


More Than A Game

At UBC, we’re big believers in the benefits of getting involved in extracurricular activities.

Playing sports, like football, is a way to build important leadership skills, stay healthy and active. It’s also an opportunity to make new friends.

We sat down with Colin Yang, Vikaram Varpaul, Spencer Moore and Karson Patommel, Totem Park residents and first-year recruits on the UBC Thunderbird football team. Here’s what they had to say about it.

Colin Yang (right) is from Frisco, Texas. He's studying Computer Sciences at UBC.

Colin Yang (right)

Colin Yang

Football is a place where I have no doubts, no stress and no fear.

I’ve heard people refer to their university experience as the best time of their life. I’ve no idea how true this really is or not, but one thing’s for sure—it’s definitely one of the most stressful.

It can get really hectic sometimes. Pages upon pages of reading to keep up with every night. Tests and quizzes to study for. Luckily, no matter how tough or stressful life seems, there’s always a place I can go to unwind, de-stress, and forget about my worries. It’s a place where I am at ease, in tune with my element, no matter the time of day nor the season.

Colin is from Frisco, Texas. He’s studying Computer Science at UBC.

Vikaram Varpaul is from Surrey, BC. He's studying in the Faculty of Arts at UBC.

Vikaram Varpaul

Vikaram Varpaul

Football creates a winning attitude, helping me develop not only as an athlete but as a student.

What makes football so much more than a game is everything that it teaches me. To be a member of the UBC Thunderbird football team requires mental toughness and discipline. Every day I put 100% of my energy into workouts, practice, and meetings trying to constantly improve myself and help the team succeed. This attitude applies towards everything I do outside of football, including academics.

To me, football is not just a game, it is a huge part of my life.

Vikaram Varpaul is from Surrey, BC. He studies in the Faculty of Arts at UBC.

Spencer Moore (centre) is from Langley, BC and is studying in the Faculty of Arts at UBC.

Spencer Moore (centre)

Spencer Moore

Football is more than just a game, it’s my passion and first love.

As a player, a great amount of dedication is required on and off the field: in meetings, in the gym, and in the classroom. To be successful at what I do, it requires a very determined attitude and that’s what I adopt.

With that said, all the efforts I put into perfecting my game can be very time-consuming, making it tough to study and get school work done sometimes. But, at the end of the day, the challenge of balancing it all is worth it. When I get to step out on to the field, and wear that number 31, I know I won’t be out-worked. Every play is all out and that comes from the constant grind day-in and day-out.

Spencer Moore is from Langley, BC. He’s studying in the Faculty of Arts at UBC. 

Karson Patommel is from Vernon, BC and is in his first-year of Kinesiology studies.

Karson Patommel

Karson Patommel

Football lets me be more than just a first-year student at UBC: it’s what makes me unique. 

When I walk around campus, I am proud of being on a team that works so hard and contributes to the community.

Because of football, I have the unique opportunity to play for thousands of fans all while making friends and creating important relationships with my teammates. Football is more than just a game, it gives me the opportunity to better myself and it has really made my experience at UBC a great one. I look forward to many more years as a UBC thunderbird.

Karson Patommel is from Vernon, BCHe’s studying Kinesiology at UBC.