Rochester gets cold during the winter. Bitterly cold. Once the snow starts falling and the temperature starts dropping, you begin questioning whether or not you want to go outside. Fortunately, RIT has an extensive tunnel system throughout the campus that can get you from class to class with minimal exposure to the elements. However, if you’ve ever been down there, you know that it takes some exploration to get the layout down. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide to the RIT tunnels to get you on your way come wintertime. For reference, you can access maps of the tunnels on the FMS website.
Dorm Side Tunnels
Probably the most familiar tunnel system to most RIT students is the one that connects most of residential side together. Everyone who lives in the dorms goes down there at some point, whether it be to go to Gracie’s during the winter or do your laundry. However, there are some hidden aspects of the system that you may not have seen if you have not spent too much time down there. You also might only be familiar with a small segment of the system that gets you to Gracie’s or the post office.
Getting around in the tunnels can be a bit disorienting at first, so it’s good to know some major landmarks in the system. Your first landmark should be knowing the location you usually enter at, so at the very least if you get turned around, you can make your way back there. This could be any of the dozen or so entrances to the tunnel system, coming from any of the buildings on residential side. Some of the major landmarks include Sol’s Underground, the Corner Store, and the curved tunnel leading up to Gracie’s. Maps are scattered around the tunnels as well, so you can check where you think you are against where you actually are.
Something else to keep an eye out for in the residential side tunnels are the various murals. These murals cover everything from RIT clubs to Star Trek, so get to know them as breadcrumbs of sorts for getting around the tunnels. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of murals throughout the residence side tunnels, so keeping an eye on what murals are near what locations can keep you from getting lost.
The residential side tunnel system will get you to any building in the area without stepping outside. While it’s a bit less direct, it’s worth the extra walking when it’s 12°F outside with 20 miles per hour winds. There are two main branches of the system, running from Residence Hall C to Grace Watson Hall and from GWH to the LBJ building. On that, there are several branches that lead to the Commons and several residence halls. There are a number of rooms and locations scattered throughout the tunnel system as well, such as more familiar locations such as Sol’s Underground or the Corner store, or more tucked away locations such as Ritchie’s game room or the Residence Hall Association offices.
The res hall C tunnel system is bit more tucked away than the rest of the system, running perpendicular to the quarter mile. Getting in can be a bit more difficult than the rest of the system, since the system is only accessible from inside the residence halls. Getting back in once you’ve made it to Gracie’s means you have to go through Res Hall A. Once you are inside, however, it’s a straight shot along the tunnel to wherever you need to go. There’s not as much in this system as there is in the rest of the dorm side tunnels, but one thing many don’t know about is what’s known as the “ABC family” room, which is a common room for students in those residence halls.
The main segment of the residential side system runs from Grace Watson Hall to LBJ and the Commons. This system is more extensive, has branches, and has quite a bit more going on than the other half of the tunnel system. Things you’ll be more familiar with will be the Corner Store, NRH post office, Sol’s Underground, and your friendly neighborhood laundry room. Some things you might not be as familiar with would be Ritchie’s game room, which is located beneath Gibson Hall. This room has a number of table games, ping pong, video games and occasionally has late-night pizza. It’s a nice spot to hang out at the end of a long week. The other place you might not know about is the Residence Hall Association Office, which is located on the way to Gracie’s. The office has, among other things, an extensive DVD library you can check out movies from.
The major junctions throughout the tunnel system mostly lead to other dorm buildings. You can usually stay on track by keeping an eye out for dead ends and following the general flow of foot traffic. Where things get a bit more interesting is right around the Commons and LBJ. Two major branches break off right after Ritchie’s game room. The segment that heads straight will bring you to LBJ, the only academic building that is connected to the dorm tunnel system. Taking a left and then a right will bring you down a nondescript hallway with an elevator that leads into the Commons.
The academic-side tunnels are a very different beast from the dorm-side tunnels. People use them a lot less, often favoring to brave the cold or walk through the upper levels of building rather than figure them out. They’re not that difficult to learn, but like so many other things, a lot of people just kind of never get around to it. Fortunately, there are three distinct systems on academic side, and they are not nearly as large as the dorm side system. There is a system connecting the SAU and the Eastman building, one for the Infinity Quad system, and the tunnels under Booth and Gannett halls.
The SAU-Eastman tunnels begin directly under the bridge between academic and residential side, leading into the athletics area. The easiest way to get in, however, is right through the Center for Campus Life near the fountain. Behind the fountain, there is a stairwell that will lead you down into the lower level. The main tunnel system door will be right in front of you. To get to Eastman, head past the WITR studio and the elevators and stairwell into the building will be at the end of the hall. If you make a turn in front of the WITR studio, that hallway will bring you up to RITZ Sports Zone and the stairs to the SAU.
The Infinity Quad system connects the Wallace Library, Liberal Arts Hall, Gleason Hall, and Gosnell Hall together. You also have the ability to make it all the way to Louise Slaughter Hall without stepping outside via the pedestrian bridge that connects Engineering Hall and Golisano Hall. This system can be a bit confusing, especially in the twists and turns of the area under Liberal Arts Hall. However, once you get the hang of it, getting around is a breeze.
Once you enter the library basement, head toward the large, glass walled classroom. Past this, you’ll enter the Liberal Arts Hall basement, which contains some of the larger lecture halls on campus, such as A201 or A205. The tunnel that leads you to the rest of the system is behind a set of double doors labeled in a recessed part of the basement next to some offices “TO ENGINEERING.” Don’t worry if those doors are shut, they keep them closed to make sure the heat from the various pipes does not overheat Liberal Arts hall.
Once you’re through there, you will have the option to walk straight through to Gleason, or make a left and head to Gosnell. Getting all the way to Slaughter while staying inside involves heading up into Gleason, which connects to Engineering hall, and heading up to the second floor to get to the bridge. This will bring you across to Golisano. After you get there, head through the building until it connects to Slaughter Hall on the far end.
Finally, you have the tunnels underneath Booth and Gannett. These are a bit more confusing than the other systems, even though it is one of the smallest. This system differs a bit from the others as well as it contains far more classrooms and studios than the others. These tunnels are accessible from most stairwells, but you can move between Booth and Gannett above ground as well by going above the breezeway. However, should you find yourself in the tunnels underneath these two buildings, make sure you get to know the landmarks. You know you’ve made it to Gannett when you begin coming across anything to do with the School of Film and Animation, such as movie posters and the large green screen room. Booth is typified by art studios. Once you have your bearings, getting around is a breeze. And remember, when in doubt, find the nearest stairwell and head above ground to get your bearings.
Minimizing Outdoor Routes
As I mentioned before, the tunnel systems do not connect with one another, and you’ll have to do some walking outside. Your best bet is going to be to know the shortest routes between buildings. For moving between the academic and residence sides, the Quarter Mile that is the simplest and shortest route. Once you do make it to academic side, however, you have some options. Hopping into the SAU system gets you into a good position to minimize the time you spent outside. If you need to get to the Infinity Quad System, your best bet is to head to the side door of the SAU basement nearest the tiger statue, and walk across to the side door of the Wallace Library. From there, you’re good through until Slaughter Hall. For the Booth-Gannett system, your best bet is to head up to the second floor of Eastman and head out the door nearest the Tojo Memorial Garden and Koi Pond. There is a door on the side of Gannett right near the pond.
The tunnel system here at RIT may seem daunting at first, but once you get to know the system, it’s an invaluable resource for the winter months. It can cut down on the time you spend trudging through the snow, and not to mention drastically cut down your scarf budget every winter. Once you figure out the system, it’s almost as fast as taking the Quarter Mile to class every day. That said, make sure you know the system before using it five minutes before you need to be at class. Familiarize yourself with the routes one day so you’re able to navigate the tunnels like a pro when old man winter comes knocking.