Enjoy your DC morning commute? Yep, I didn’t think so.
If there’s one thing that really frustrates me in the mornings, it’s dealing with a packed metro train on my way to the office. On some days, I might have some space to stand, with enough room to grab onto a strap or a handle next to a seat to keep me from falling down. Forget about actually having a seat. They’re usually packed with commuters coming from outside the Beltway that got on at an earlier stop. On other days, I might be on a train that gets put out of service due to overcrowding, a train that’s stuck in a tunnel due to a delay (the longest I’ve been stuck in a tunnel was more than 20 minutes!), or the absolute worse, being stuck next to someone with extremely bad body odor. Yuck!
7 Tips and Alternatives to Hack Your DC Morning Commute
It’s things like this that sometimes make me wish I had a car, before I quickly remind myself how inconvenient and expensive dealing with having a car would be for the area I live in. After two years or so of dealing with the morning rush hour on the metro, I began evaluating my alternative options to get to work. Since then, here’s what I’ve learned on how to avoid the crowds on the DC metro during your morning commute:
Know Before You Go
There are a number of apps available on the Apple or Android App Store that tell you the status of the next train. Personally, I use an app called iCommute DC. It costs $1.99, but not only does it give you upcoming times for trains, it also gives you times for each of the bus service providers in the DC Area.
Wait until an 8 rail car train arrives
In DC, subways consist of either 6 or 8 rail cars. If you’re lucky and an 8 car train is coming, board the last two rail cars — they’re generally much less crowded than the first six rail cars.
Board at the ends of a rail car
Even though there are always announcements that tell people to move towards the center of the rail car and to not crowd near the doors, I rarely see people moving all the way into the middle of the train. Not only does it make it harder to get into the middle of the rail car, which tends to be generally less cramped, it’s even more cramped near the doors! To avoid having to deal with folks that don’t move towards the middle of the rail car, I simply just board at either of a rail car. There’s generally fewer people standing in the aisles at the end of the trains than in the middle, which means more space to grab onto something to keep from falling!
Ride the Metro before rush hour.
This is a no-brainer, but it goes without saying that riding the Metro before rush hour generally means fewer people on board. Beat the rush by getting on the train before 7:45 in the morning, or after 6:30 in the evening.
Consider additional transportation options…
Take the Bus
If you live within a 15-minute walk of a metro station, chances are there’s probably also a bus route that passes through your neighborhood. For example, if you live in North Arlington and work in the Dupont Circle area (like me), you could either take the Orange or Silver Line into town. As an alternative, you could take the 38B bus, which runs between Ballston Mall and Farragut Square via Clarendon Blvd in Arlington and K Street in Downtown DC.
Take a moment to check out Google Maps to see which bus routes are near your area, and figure out if there are available bus routes that are convenient for your commute. Taking the bus might take a little longer, but you’re much more likely to have a seat on the bus. I’ll caveat this by saying that if your bus route is a heavily used route (the 90/92/94, S2/S4/S6, etc.), taking the bus might be just as frustrating (and crowded!) as taking the metro.
Walk to work
For those fortunate enough to live within 1-2 miles of where they work, you should absolutely consider walking as another way of getting to the office. While I live about 4 miles away from my office, on days where the weather is nice out, I have walked home. For those that need to suit up, make sure to bring proper walking shoes!
Bike to work
For a city of it’s size, DC is probably one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. Within downtown, there are numerous streets with dedicated (and wide) biking lanes throughout the city. The same holds true in many of the close-in suburbs of the area such as Bethesda and Silver Spring in Maryland or Arlington and Alexandria in Virginia. Simply figure out what your ideal route should be using the maps below, grab a helmet and go!
For those that don’t have a bike, DC’s Capital BikeShare program is one of the most extensive bike sharing programs in the country. For those not familiar with the program, Capital Bikeshare offers customers access to more than 2,500 bicycles located at over 300 stations in Washington, D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, VA and Montgomery County, MD. Capital Bikeshare offers bike passes for a day, 3 days, a month or a year. Click here for more information.
There are a lot of transportation options to choose from when getting to work, particularly if your office is located near a Metro station. Rush hour is something inevitable, but there are a number of things you can do to avoid the crowds and make your morning commute more pleasant. Hope you’ve found my tips on how to avoid the crowds on the DC Metro useful. I’d love to hear about what you do to make your Metro experience as enjoyable and hassle free as possible during rush hour. Let me know in the comments below!