How To: Hack Your DC Morning Commute


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.

Downtown DC




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!

Destination: Eastern Market Metro


I kicked off my quest to visit every DC Metro station by heading over to the area around the Eastern Market Metro station. As someone who lives in North Arlington, even though Eastern Market sits on the same line as my home stop, I’ve only visited the area a handful of times. Here’s what I discovered:

For places to eat…

Boxcar Tavern

My friend and I started the day off for a quick and cheap lunch here. Located on 7th St. SE, this place is relatively affordable compared to the other brunch restaurants in the Eastern Market area along 8th St. SE.  I had an omelette with potatoes and fruit. With tax and tip, breakfast came out to about $15 per person.

My bacon and cheese omelette.

My bacon and cheese omelette.

Check out their menu here.

Hours of operation:

  • Monday – Wednesday: 11:00 am – 12:00 am
  • Thursday: 11:00 am – 1:00 am
  • Friday: 11:00 am – 2:00 am
  • Saturday: 9:30 am – 2:00 am
  • Sunday: 9:30 am – 12:00 am

Other restaurants to check out:

My friend and I only made it to Boxcar, but the Eastern Market area, particularly along 8th St. SE., has a lot of restaurants to choose from. Here are my suggestions:

Medium RareKnown for their steak frites. You’ll be surprised at what happens to your plate when you’ve finished: the waiters will give you another helping. The first time I went here, I had no idea they did this. Boom!

Belga Cafe – One of my favorite brunch spots in DC. It gets packed on weekends, so make sure to book a reservation ahead of time. They’re a little small, but regardless, I highly recommend ordering their Belgian waffles!

Ambar – This restaurant opened relatively recently, and offers excellent Balkan cuisine! Definitely a place I’d recommend checking out if you’re looking to broaden your palate!

A must-visit (at least once!)

Eastern Market

After lunch, my friend and I headed over to Eastern Market. The Market is arranged like one big hallway, with vendors selling a wide selection of products: mostly pastas, meats, seafood and pastries. On Saturdays, the area around Eastern Market hosts a Flea Market, with vendors selling mostly arts and crafts.

Inside Eastern Market

Inside Eastern Market

Vendors at Eastern Market

Vendors at Eastern Market

If it’s your first time to the area, you should absolutely stop by Eastern Market, if only to briefly check the place out. Not coming to Eastern Market would be like visiting DC for the first time without walking around The Mall; it’s simply wrong! After living in the DC area for 5 years, Eastern Market at this point feels more touristy than local. For a true local market experience, I’d suggest visiting Union Market.

Hours of Operation:

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday – Friday: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Saturday: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
  • Sunday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

For a delicious cup of coffee (or hot chocolate!)…

Peregrine Espresso

I’d heard a lot about Peregrine Espresso from friends, so decided to check out this neighborhood coffee shop. Although I’m a former Starbucks barista, I rarely drink coffee — hot chocolate and tea is my jam! However, my friend absolutely loved this place! This cafe gets really packed on weekends, so I’d suggest getting your drink to go.

Peregrine Espresso, Eastern Market

Peregrine Espresso, Eastern Market

Hot chocolate at Peregrine Espresso.

Hot chocolate at Peregrine Espresso.

View their website for more info. 

Hours of operation:

  • Monday – Saturday: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

An interesting neighborhood gem…

Capitol Hill Books

Located in a converted row home, this bookstore, which sells used books, was without a doubt the most interesting find of the day. Unlike at your typical Barnes and Noble, books here are crammed literally into every corner imaginable. Walking around the bookstore, I wondered if the staff had any way of knowing which books they currently have in stock, or where to locate the book.

Capitol Hill Books

Endless stacks of books at Capitol Hill Books.

Books even in the bathroom!

Books even in the bathroom!

Capitol Hill Books

Capitol Hill Books

Check out their website for more info

Hours of Operation

  • Open daily, 11:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on weekdays,
  • 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on weekends.

For some dessert…

District Doughnut

After the bookstore, we walked over to District Doughnut. Located directly across from the Marine Barracks entrance (hence the nickname for this street, Barracks Row), this no-frills shop is known for its variety of donuts. I love apples, and after the lady behind the counter showed us the six donuts currently available, I unhesitatingly chose the one with the apples. I was so excited, but after taking my first bite had realized the donut was actually a type of cake shaped like a donut. I was bummed!! Next time you come here, make sure to ask if it’s a cake versus a donut!

District Doughnut

District Doughnut

Apple Cinammon Doughnut

Apple Cinammon Doughnut

View their menu here

Hours of Operation:

  • Wednesday – Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 p.m.
  • Saturday – Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Other dessert places to check out:

Sweet Lobby – Take note: this place is only open on weekdays. However, if you can make it there, you’ll be rewarded with amazingly delicious macarons. In my opinion, they’re the best in DC!


You could well easily spend a whole day eating along Barracks Row, located directly south of the Eastern Market Metro station. To take a break from all the eating, head towards Eastern Market to check out what’s on sale, Capitol Hill Books for a new book, or Peregrine Espresso for a nice cup of coffee or tea.


Eastern Market Metro Station

Eastern Market Metro Station

Eastern Market Metro is located in Southeast DC, and is served by the Orange, Silver and Blue lines.

  • Parking: None
  • Bikes: 20 bike lockers are available
  • Carsharing: several zip cars are available
  • Buses: The following bus routes serve this station:

Destination: Virginia Square Metro


As someone who’s lived in the North Arlington area for the past four years, I’ve put together a list of five reasons why you should head out to Virginia Square:

For those looking for coffee…

Northside Social

This local neighborhood coffee shop, located roughly halfway between the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations, is great. For one, it’s more than just a coffee shop! In addition to great coffee, the place also doubles as a wine bar upstairs, and offers a variety of pastries, teas and hot chocolatey goodness to choose from. During peak hours, this place can get packed, so I’d recommend coming earlier in the day if you plan on lingering around to get some work done.

Take a look at their menu

Hours of Operation:

  • Monday – Wednesday: 6am – 10pm
  • Thursday: 6am – 11pm
  • Friday: 6am – 12am
  • Saturday: 7am – 12am
  • Sunday: 7am – 10pm
Northside Social

Northside Social

For those looking to eat…

Rocklands BBQ

The Arlington branch of this DC area barbeque joint is located just a 5 minute walk from the Virginia Square metro. Rocklands is a fast casual type of restaurant, making it the perfect place to head to if you didn’t have time to cook lunch or dinner. Every time I come here, I pretty much get the same thing: a pulled pork BBQ sandwich, with a side of fried okra and mac and cheese.

Check out their menu

Hours of Operation:

  • Monday – Thursday: 11am – 930pm
  • Friday – Saturday: 11am – 10pm
  • Sunday: 11am – 9pm
Rocklands Arlington

Rocklands Arlington

For those looking for a quiet place…

Central Arlington Library – If I’m in work-mode where I need a place to focus that’s not as crowded as Northside, I head on over to the Central Arlington Library. Located about a 10 minute walk from the Virginia Square metro, the library is the largest and main branch of the Arlington County system. Free wifi is excellent throughout the building, and it’s generally pretty easy to find an open desk on the library’s second floor.

Need a book? Search their catalog here.

Hours of Operation:

  • Sunday: 1 – 9pm
  • Monday – Thursday: 10 – 9pm
  • Friday – Saturday: 10 – 5pm
Arlington Central Library

Arlington Central Library

For those looking to be active…

Arlington Quincy Park – This regional park, located a short five minute walk from Virginia Square, is one of the largest in North Arlington. The park is located right next to Central Library, and has six tennis courts, a basketball court, a sand volleyball court, baseball / softball fields and a bunch of open space to just relax around. One thing that I want to emphasize about this place is safety. The place is incredibly safe. I’ve come here

Make a reservation

Should I make a reservation?

That depends. If you have a big event, I’d highly recommend doing so. I’ve only played tennis here before and have never bothered with reserving the space, but in case you wanted to be sure you have a court, you can reserve a tennis court. For tennis, prices are $10/hour for Arlington County residents, $20/hour for non-county residents.

Quincy Park

Quincy Park

For those who like the arts…

Arlington Arts Center – I’ll be honest: I’ve only been inside here because it’s my polling location for elections. That being said, I’ve been meaning to explore more of this place. During the summer, there tends to be an outdoor exhibit or sculpture that they place out on the front lawn.

Gallery Hours:

Arlington Arts Center

Arlington Arts Center

Getting to Virginia Square Metro

Virginia Square Metro Station

Virginia Square Metro Station

Virginia Square Metro is located in the heart of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and is served by the Orange and Silver Lines.

  • Street Parking: None
  • Bikes: 12 bike racks and 32 bike lockers are available
  • Carsharing: several zipcars are available
  • Buses: The following bus routes serve this station:

A New Adventure!


Hi all! Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m Jason, a twenty-something DC transplant that’s been in the area for nearly five years. Like many of us, I arrived here car-less, and rely pretty much on the metro, uber/lyft or a friend to get around.

For much of my time here, as someone with a passion for adventure and travel, I’ve felt like my lack of a car limited my ability to truly experience what the DC area has to offer. Not to mention the more practical aspects of having a car, like being able to go to the grocery store and buying things in bulk as opposed to carrying them back to my apartment in the dead of winter (or worse, the heat of the summer!)

The truth is though, it’s totally possible to not only work around these “problems,” but also thrive and live a life of adventure and exploration in the DC area — without a car.

Discovering DC via Metro

All told, there are 91 metro stations and over 300 bus routes spread across DC, Maryland and Virginia. I’m betting that most of you already living in the area only get off at a handful of these stops, and haven’t bothered venturing out beyond your most familiar stops.

DC Metro Map. Source:

I’m writing this blog for three reasons:

  • to help newcomers to DC discover their new city
  • to help people discover a different part of the city they’re not familiar with
  • to document my travels around the region

Through this blog, I hope to post about what there is to see and do around the city via public transportation. Where I go though, is entirely up to you. Let me know in the comments below on where you’d like me to go!

Over time, I hope this blog will become a resource for you all. Come join me in my journey to explore DC, one metro stop and bus route at a time!