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A UCI student’s guide to navigating Irvine public transportation

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With spring quarter winding down and summer break on the horizon, UCI students may be more eager to explore the city of Irvine, the rest of Orange County and beyond. Below are some cost and time-effective ways to navigate the offerings of local public transportation and some tips for new and returning riders.

Irvine CONNECT Shuttle

Operating Hours: Weekdays 6 a.m. – 8 p.m., weekends 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Fare: Free

Route Map

The Irvine CONNECT shuttle launched in April 2024 to provide more transit options within city borders. All riders can use the shuttle free of charge and expect service every 20 minutes to locations from the Irvine Train Station down to Northwood Town Center. Key stops include the Irvine Spectrum Center, Heritage Park Library and Kaiser Permanente hospitals. The shuttle’s Passio GO! site can be used to locate dock points, track wait times and check passenger capacity. Typical pull cords are in place for passengers to notify drivers of their stops, and the shuttles can be easily spotted with their bright green outfitting.


Operating Hours: Varies according to route 

Fare: $1 or free with OC Bus or Metrolink ticket

Route Map

The iShuttle, operated by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), has arrivals timed directly with Metrolink trains for riders’ convenience. Newly added routes 400A and 401B feature key destinations including The District and John Wayne Airport. Routes 402C and 403D operate towards destinations such as Odyssey Medical Center and Irvine Spectrum Center respectively. iShuttle vehicles can look similar to Irvine CONNECT shuttles but are easily distinguished by their more elongated and larger stature.


Operating Hours: Varies by route

Fare: Free (Student Adventure Pass) until June 30

Route Map (Page 4)

UCI Students can ride the Metrolink train and most connecting transit options for free with the Student Adventure Pass until June 30, or when funding for the program depletes. To access the pass, students must register for a Metrolink account with a university email on the Metrolink app

Tickets outside of the Student Adventure Pass vary in price depending on departure and arrival locations, and can also be purchased on the Metrolink app or at the station directly. Other Metrolink passes permit students to ride station-connecting OC Buses free of charge through programs like EZ Transit and county-specific policies.

Boarding begins at various train stations across six Southern California counties, including the Irvine Tustin Stations. Onboard, overhead announcements before station arrivals remind riders of their destinations.

Photo by Karen Wang / Staff
Riders can purchase one-way, round-trip and other flex passes through the Metrolink app. Activate tickets shortly before train boarding, as passengers are required to show their tickets to an officer on board.

OC Bus 

Operating Hours: Varies by route

Fare: $2 for regular one-way ticket and discounted fares for day, month and year passes for students, seniors and disabled individuals 

Route Map

OCTA operates the OC bus and offers affordable rates of $2 for singular rides and $4.50 for day passes. UCI students can purchase a year-long OC Bus pass for a discounted rate of $169 through UCI Transportation and Distribution Services. Students may also purchase discounted month passes through the OC Bus app or regular tickets with cash or coins upon entering the bus. 

Students can plan their routes using the Transit app. All OC Bus customers are automatically upgraded to Transit Royale, the subscription version of the app that gives riders more tools to track and plan routes. The OC Bus also provides Text4Next, which allows riders to receive text reminders of arriving buses. 

Using Apple or Google Maps, students can select the public transportation tab which contains directions to a respective bus stop, the bus’s arrival time and directions to the final destination.

A downside of routes 79, 167, 59, 178 and 473, which are commonly used by UCI students, is that they typically have runtimes of roughly 40 minutes to an hour, so more time may be spent waiting for the bus to arrive.

Anteater Express

Operating Hours: Approximately 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. on weekdays 

Fare: Free

Route Map

Students can ride the ASUCI-run Anteater Express free of charge on weekdays. The A, E, N, and H Line routes run to and from campus and the American Campus Communities (ACC), while the M Line runs a loop around the campus core.. Students can track these buses live through the TransLoc app and the Anteater Express website. Buses run every seven to 25 minutes, depending on the bus line, time of day and route. More information can be found on the Anteater Express website.

How to use transfers and connections between transit options

Utilizing multiple transit options can help reduce commute time. Students can plan transitions between multiple modes of transportation by becoming familiar with major Irvine intersections on streets like Alton, Culver and Jamboree. Referencing apps, like Google Maps, can help find a variety of docking spots to plan the most efficient route.  

For example, sole usage of the OC Bus to Irvine Spectrum can take from one to two hours. Students can take the OCTA 79 Bus from UCI and exit near Alton Parkway then use Irvine CONNECT’s live tracking to find a nearby dock point and take the shuttle to Irvine Spectrum to shorten the commute by about 15 to 20 minutes.

Photo by Karen Wang / Staff
Navigating from the UCI area to the popular Diamond Jamboree shopping center requires students to transfer from the OCTA 473 Bus to 86 Bus.

General Tips 

  1. Arrive at the desired bus stop or station five to ten minutes before the scheduled departure time.
  2. Plan your trip using respective apps to familiarize yourself with possible route transitions.
  3. Pay attention during the ride to be prepared for your stop. If necessary, notify the driver of your stop using a pull cord or push tabs, such as what is used on the OC Bus, Irvine CONNECT, iShuttle and Anteater Express.

Karen Wang is a 2023-2024 City News Editor. She can be reached at karenw14@uci.edu.