Congratulations! You picked UNC Charlotte as your school, which means you are enrolled at one of the few universities in the country with a train on campus. With just your student ID, you have the power to travel to some the best parts of Charlotte — NoDa, Uptown and South End — without ever getting in a car. The light rail may seem intimidating at first, but follow these steps and you’ll be riding like a pro by the second week of classes.

Don’t forget your student ID. 

Your ID will get you on and off the light rail with no problems. Students pay $25 per semester as part of their tuition for an all-access pass on light rail, trolley and the majority of Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) transit. When conductors ask to see your ticket, you will show them your ID.

Occasionally you won’t be asked for a ticket during your ride, however, you don’t want to be caught empty-handed when they do. If you’re bringing non-students, make sure they pay at the kiosks for the $2.20 one-way or $4.40 round-trip ticket.

Download the Charlotte light rail app.

The Charlotte light rail app lets you know when the train is arriving and departing from its 26 stations. During the day, the light rail stops on campus every eight minutes. This app becomes more useful at night when the light rail only makes stops every 20 or so minutes. Make sure you hop on before the service stops around 1:50 p.m. to avoid an expensive Uber ride.

Tip: The UNC Charlotte Next Ride app lets you track on-campus buses that can take you to the station from different parts of campus.

Know where to go. Here are the Niner Times recommendations.

Food Truck Friday

Station: East/West Boulevard

Every Friday, food trucks line up in Sycamore Brewing’s lot from 5-10 p.m. The event has outdoor seating and live music. Trucks vary depending on the night, but some of the regulars include the grilled cheese truck Papi Queso, taco truck Tin Kitchen and Gyro Twins.

Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center

Station: Charlotte Transportation Center (CTC)/Arena

NBA season starts up again in October, not too long after school starts. Charlotte Hornet’s games at the Spectrum Center are an affordable way to show some Queen City spirit. Plus, with the light rail, you don’t even have to pay for parking. In years past, they’ve sold tickets to college students for $10 if they were bought at the ticket both within the 90 minutes before the game. Their college rush deal for this year is TBA.

Find a new study spot (other than Atkins)

Station: 25th Street or CTC/Arena

If you’re tired of the Atkins Library scenery, there are some amazing coffee shops along the light rail to study at. Get off at 25th Street and walk over to Amélie’s French Bakery. This 24/7 café is perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee and pastry at one of their many tables. If you’re planning on making it an all-day study sash, they also serve sandwiches, soups and salads.

A little further down the line, hop off at CTC/Arena Station and walk over to Coco and the Director to enjoy an atmosphere that encourages you to spend hours there cranking out work — either at a table or on the stadium-style seats with pillows and bean bags. If you get tired of laptops and textbooks, there’s board games and books for customers to enjoy.

Be on the lookout for upcoming events

Always be looking out for festivals, concerts and other upcoming events. Last semester, when light rail was first operating, students rode to the St. Patrick’s Day festival, March for Our Lives, NCAA basketball tournaments and 49er baseball games in Uptown at the BB&T Ballpark.

Here are some free upcoming festivals to put on your calendar:

Charlotte Pride Fest in Uptown – Aug. 18-19

Station: CTC/Arena

Yiasou Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral – Sept. 6-9

Station: East/West Boulevard

Freedom in the Park Music and Arts Festival at Freedom Park – Sept. 22-24

Station: East/West Boulevard and take a shuttle to the festival for $2 per rider

Hola Charlotte Festival in Uptown – Oct. 6

Station: 7th Street

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Alexandria Sands is the Niner Times' community editor. She is a senior majoring in Communication Studies with a double minor in Journalism and English. Sands' work has been published in The Charlotte Business Journal, Creative Loafing, The Gaston Gazette, The Shelby Star and The State Port Pilot. When she's not in the newsroom, you can catch her reading a book on Oak Island. Reach her at community@ninertimes.com or @alexsands_.

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