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The Trials of Public Transit

As I mentioned previously, Tim and I relied solely on public transportation during our week in Washington, DC (save for the day my friend Maggie picked us up at the Metro station). We relied heavily on walking and the DC Metro with the occasional taxi ride or bus ride.

Public transportation in the DC suburbs is strange. While the Metro runs several times an hour from 5 in the morning until midnight every day, the Fairfax Connector and the Metro busses do not. The Fairfax Connector busses that ran past our hotel to the Vienna Metro station only ran for about 3 hours during the AM commute, and 3 hours in the PM commute. Trips cost $1.35 one-way, and while they accept SmarTrip, they do not accept the weekly Metro pass. They also do not give change, so you must have exact change or be willing to lose money.

We were only able to use the bus system in the mornings on two of the days, because we did not learn about the busses until several days into our trip. The hotel had told us that the bus system wasn’t reliable and only ran before 8 in the morning. This was not true, as the busses ran until around 9:30. There also were Metro busses that could have helped us as well….if we didn’t mind a 45 minute bus ride. After my experience in York (UK) with getting sick from riding a bus, I really try to spend as little time on a bus as possible. 45 minutes was just a little too long for me.

Thursday morning we made sure we got out of the hotel early enough to catch the very last Connector bus for the day. It was super easy, we just had to walk across the street to stand in front of the 7-11 and the bus was there right on time. 15 minutes later, and we were at the Metro. Much faster than walking!

We were really glad we had decided to time our trip back to catch the bus, because it started pouring down as we reached the Vienna Metro station. But we ran into a problem. We were running to catch the bus in the pouring rain and right as we got to the bus, the driver closed the door and switched off his sign! Tim and I assumed that it was because that bus wasn’t the bus we were supposed to take, so we ran up the entire length of the bus area. We got to the front and didn’t see another bus, but we did see the bus driver who wouldn’t let us on his bus pull away, now with his signs turned on! Unbelievable. Since it was pouring down rain, we opted for the $7 cab ride instead of waiting an hour for the next bus.

Another trip not covered by our weekly Metro passes was the Georgetown Connector. For $1 each way, it connected the Rosslyn Metro station with downtown Georgetown. Not a bad price, to be honest. The connector uses a mini bus, and there also was a larger bus that connected from Union Station, though I’m not sure how much that cost.

We purchased special weekly passes for the Metro for $25. It was valid for 7 continuous days of travel, provided you didn’t travel between the AM or PM peak/rush. This worked out well for us since the museums didn’t open until 10am anyway,and they had extended summer hours until 7. If you can manage to work your transportation around the schedule and avoid the “no travel” times (it’s not really no travel, you just can only take trips that cost $1.35 during the AM and PM rush), it’s a much better option over purchasing either a regular weekly pass at $46 or a re-loadable SmarTrip card. Even with only using it for 5 days out of the 7, we still managed to get our money’s worth out of it.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Alex August 19th, 2009 18:57

    If its pouring rain and you want to know whether to take a cab or wait for the bus, may I suggest checking nextbusdc.com on your phone, or if you have an iPhone you can get the NextBus DC app on the App Store.

  2. Rebecca August 19th, 2009 19:01

    The problem wasn’t not knowing how soon a bus would be there. We had the schedule. The problem was the bus driver who clearly was the bus we needed decided to be a jerk and didn’t want any riders 🙁

    I’m not sure I’d want to pull out my phone in the middle of a downpour, but maybe your link will help someone else, so thanks.

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