A Guide to Santa Cruz and UCSC Buses

Upperclassmen veterans who have fond memories of shuffling onto the loop bus know that answer, but some things have changed over summer. Whether or not you’re still questioning which bus you have to show your ID for, or have that locked down in your muscle memory, here’s a quick refresher on UC Santa Cruz’s loop buses and the City of Santa Cruz’s Metro System (SC Metro). 

Loop Buses

UCSC’s campus shuttle program, also known as the loop buses, circle around campus all day in both directions, hitting all corners of UCSC. Loop buses do not make their way into the city, but are a great way to get from one end of campus to the other without tired legs.

For first-time passengers who may not be sure of bus etiquette, some general rules include: not taking phone calls on the bus, always thanking your bus driver, and if you are traveling to another stop on campus, pretty please use a loop bus rather than the Metro. 

Students will never have to wait too long for a loop bus to come around, since there are multiple buses in circulation throughout the day. Loop buses are also free for anyone who wants to get on, and riders do not need to show valid ID.

Santa Cruz Metro

The bus costs two dollars for Santa Cruz residents, but UCSC students are granted free entry onto SC Metro buses with a valid student ID.

All SC Metro buses start and end at the Santa Cruz Metro Center, located on Pacific Avenue in the heart of Downtown. SC Metro offers over 20 different routes to get you around the county, but with the 22 ending service after spring 2022, only five routes take the loop around the UCSC campus. For now, those are the five we’ll look into with greater detail.


Traveling counterclockwise (meaning the bus travels from Cowell/Stevenson to Oakes/Family Student Housing) around campus, the 10 is the fastest route to get to Downtown. By taking High Street and avoiding more prominent locations along the westside of Santa Cruz, a trip to Pacific Avenue only takes between 15 to 25 minutes. However, the 10 doesn’t run as often as its other campus counterparts as buses only come once every hour. 


Traveling clockwise around campus, the 15 takes Bay Street most of the way before turning left onto Mission Street and passing by Santa Cruz High School to get to Downtown. Buses come once every half hour on weekdays with the last bus leaving starting its final loop at 9:15 p.m. Keep in mind, the 15 does not operate on weekends. Depending on traffic conditions and where students board the 15, a trip to Downtown should take 20 to 30 minutes. 


For a quick grocery trip or a sip of boba, the newest line in town — only active since June 2021 — may be the perfect choice. The 18 travels counterclockwise around campus, going down Western Drive and Mission Street.Taking one of the more populous streets in Santa Cruz, the 18 can bring you directly to places like Safeway, CVS, McDonald’s, and Taco Bell. Taking 20 to 30 minutes to get to Downtown, it also passes local businesses such as Falafel Santa Cruz and Mo’s Dumplings. The 18 comes once every half hour and is useful for any late stays on campus as it runs up until midnight on weekdays with some slight variation for the weekend schedule. 


If you’re looking to get to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the 19 is the route for you. Traveling clockwise around campus, the 19 takes 20 to 30 minutes to get Downtown. Similar to the 15, the 19 travels down Bay Street most of the way to Downtown. However, instead of passing by Santa Cruz High School, the 19 stops directly at Cowell Beach or the Santa Cruz Wharf. Like the 18, buses come once every half hour, but switch to hourly service on weekends. The 19 is also a great late night option as its last weekday service at 11:30 p.m.


Similar to the 18, the 20 also travels counterclockwise around campus and makes its way into town through Western. However, instead of going through Mission Street, the 20 turns onto Delaware Avenue, servicing neighborhoods around West Cliff. The 20 takes slightly longer to get to Downtown, with rides ranging from 25 to 35 minutes. With the 22 no longer running, the 20 is now responsible for servicing Coastal Science Center and Natural Bridges State Beach. The 20 is the most infrequent route with buses coming once every 80 minutes on weekdays and every hour on weekends.