For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Nov 27 2017
by Caroline Mulvaney

A College Student's Guide to Transportation in Washington, D.C.

By Caroline Mulvaney - Nov 27 2017

D.C. is a hustle-and-bustle city with lots of sights to see, from monuments and museums to festivals and concerts. And even for the people who live here, getting around can be a pain, especially when there are always tourists and motorcades disrupting the natural flow of things. However, there’s always another way to get where you need to go. We gathered a list of all the possible transportation options you can take in Washington D.C.

1. Uber


Pros: Uber is great in a pinch because they can usually pick you up anywhere in around five minutes, and you don’t have to worry about a schedule or something being out of service. Also, it’s always nice to have a conversation with your driver (or the other people in the car, if you’re an UberPool person). You can find out a lot about the city that way.

Cons: It can definitely be one of the more expensive options in the city, with the price fluctuating according to the time that you call the car and how far you’re going. Also, D.C. traffic can be killer. It’s not often that being held up by a motorcade is a normal thing.

2. Metro


Pros: Personally, I love the Metro. It’s fast, cheap (you have to buy a Metro card to use it but the card itself is only about $2.00) and always provides great people watching. What’s more, the Metro has lines that stretch out into Virginia and Maryland. It’s a great way to get around once you figure out how to navigate it.

Cons: Much like the traffic in D.C., the Metro can be unpredictable. Everything from someone getting hit by a train to an electrical malfunction can cause delays. Construction is also a common thing, and causes lines to be cut short. What’s more, during rush hour, you might not be able to physically fit yourself on a train. Keep that in mind for all you folks who aren’t fans of tight places.

3. Metro Bus


Pros: The Metro Bus is an insanely affordable option– it’s $1 if you pay with your Metro card (the same one you use to pay for the Metro) and $2 if you’re paying with cash. From there, you can go anywhere on the bus lines. What’s more, they run most hours of the day, and the bus stops are all over the city.

Cons: Once again, the Metro Bus can be somewhat unreliable (are you sensing a theme here?). If one bus breaks down, it causes a delay for the whole line. What’s more, the wait in between buses can sometimes be as long as fifteen or twenty minutes, and although there are lots of lines all over the city, most of them are short and limited in how far they reach. That usually means getting off one bus to switch on to another line. If you’re planning on using the Metro Bus system, make sure to map out your route online first.

4. Bikes


Pros: Even if you don’t own a bike already, there are lots of options to rent bikes in D.C. Capital Bikeshare is a company that has bike terminals all over the city, and you can pick a bike up from any terminal and drop it off at any other terminal. Lime Bike is based entirely on your phone, with no terminals. What’s more, there are lots of gorgeous bike paths running all over D.C. for you to use.

Cons: D.C. is a city, and the people who drive here clearly know that. They don’t give much courtesy to cyclists (and that includes the massive buses). Also, the city is called “The Hill” for a reason, and it’s a reason your legs will quickly become aware of. Finally, if the bike gets a flat tire or the chain breaks or anything like that, you’re pretty much out of luck.

5. Your own car.


Pros: Your car, your rules. You can take whatever route you want and go wherever you want with no time restrictions or distance limits. It’s also nice for when you want to leave the city and spend a day in the mountains or Six Flags.

Cons: Keeping a car in D.C. is expensive. Parking prices are jacked up, and so are gas prices, to the point where you have to seriously ask yourself if having your own car is really worth it. Also, did I mention D.C. traffic?

6. Walking


Pros: There are no traffic jams, no technical difficulties and no fares. Also, D.C. is a very walkable city. The sidewalks are well-maintained and accessible, and they can get you pretty much anywhere you need to go. I would suggest walking along the Mall or the path going along the Potomac and around the Jefferson Memorial.

Cons: D.C. is one giant hill. And as accessible as everything is, walking 5+ miles from one place to another is often neither time-convenient nor weather-friendly (we get rain and snow and shine all in one day). However, overall, it often is the best option.

There are lots of things to do and see in our capital city, so don’t let transportation get in the way of enjoying them. You have a lot of options to get from one place to the next. For the most part, trial and error is the best way to figure out your day-to-day routine. Just don’t forget the cardinal rule of traveling in D.C.: something can always go wrong. 

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash

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Caroline Mulvaney - Georgetown University

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