TransportationTransportation

Written by Dan Malouff, lifestyle blogger

6 Ways to Beat DC Traffic

6 Ways to Beat DC Traffic

Washington’s traffic is legendary. But life in the big city doesn’t have to leave you sitting in jams or circling for parking. The fact is, it’s often more convenient to get around without using a car than with one. Here are 6 great ways to see our beautiful city, instead of the back side of somebody else’s car.


Metrorail

Washington is home to America’s second busiest subway, after New York. But don’t call it the subway here. In DC, it’s the Metro.

Metro[Source:WMATA]

Metro’s 6 color-coded lines can whisk you all over town, including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, nightlife areas, every major sports stadium and the big monuments and museums of the National Mall.

At rush hour when trains come as often as every 3 minutes, it’s by far the fastest way to travel through the city. At night and on weekends trains are scheduled every 15-20 minutes, enough to make Metro a convenient alternative to shelling out for a taxi.

Washingtonians like to gripe about our subway, but that’s because it’s so indispensable to life here. The first time you meet someone and they ask “what’s your Metro station?” be sure you know the answer.


Buses & Streetcars

The bus is no afterthought in DC. If you take just a few minutes to learn how to best use the bus, it can unlock the city’s neighborhoods like nothing else.

Metro[Source:WMATA]

The trick to using the bus is to know which lines are easy to use. On the map above, the thick lines illustrate the best ones: lines that come every few minutes, often enough that you don’t need to consult a schedule, but can just show up at a stop and a bus will be there soon.

Savvy Washingtonians know those thick lined, high-quality buses as well as they know the Metro.

You might even see famous people on the bus. No joke: Back in 2010 I used to see Kal Penn on the S2, commuting home from the White House.

And don’t forget Washington’s newest transit option, the DC Streetcar. These on-street trains are more like bigger, more comfortable buses than like a subway. They just started carrying passengers to H Street Northeast in February. But watch out for a future extension downtown!


Carsharing

Sometimes, no matter how often trains come, you just need a car. Hauling that bookcase home from Ikea on the Metro would be a little awkward, after all.

At times like those, carsharing is the answer.

Here’s how carsharing works: Cars are parked all over town. You sign up for a membership and use a website or app to reserve cars for as little as a half hour at a time. Then you just walk up to the cars, unlock them with a member card or app, and drive off. It’s that easy.

Car sharing

You can get anything from a tiny Smartcar to a big cargo van. Whatever you need.

There are 4 big carsharing companies out there right now, each a little different: Zipcar is the oldest and has the most cars. Enterprise parks its cars at Metro stations. Getaround eliminates the middle man by letting regular people share their own cars. And Car2Go lets you drop cars anywhere, rather than requiring you return to their pick up spot.


Taxis & Ride-Hailing Apps

Headed to the airport with 5 pieces of luggage? Miss your bus? Taxis and apps like Uber and Lyft have got you covered.

Taxis

DC’s fleet of taxicabs is huge. In the city’s most central neighborhoods, catching one is as easy as walking to the curb and sticking out your arm.

If you’re in a more outlying neighborhood or if it’s 5:00 am, using a smartphone to hail an Uber or Lyft is a better bet.


Bicycling

Bikes are serious transportation in DC. The city’s extensive network of bike lanes is constantly growing, and our bikesharing system is one of the country’s best.

Bike

Bikes give you the personal convenience of a car without the hassle of waiting in traffic or looking for parking. For short trips, they’re often legitimately the fastest way to get around town.

You don’t even need your own bike. If you have one, Capital Bikeshare lets you hop on and off virtually wherever and whenever you need.

That’s why you’ll see a lot of cyclists all over DC, especially on those ubiquitous red bikeshare bikes. It’s simply a sensible and practical way to get around. Give it a try.


Walking

Don’t laugh. In most of DC you won’t need to drive or take transit to go out to dinner, buy clothes, or visit the park. You’ll just walk, because DC is first and foremost a walking city.

Walk

Walking may not be sexy but it’s absolutely the single most important way to travel in DC. Sure, nobody walks very far distances, but they don’t need to. Shops and restaurants are usually only a few blocks away, close enough that it’s not worth it use a vehicle.

And when you do need to go further, you’ll usually be walking to the Metro station, bus stop, bikeshare dock, or carshare. Right?

Dan

About Dan

Dan Malouff has been a professional transportation planner in the Washington, DC area for 12 years, specializing in policy, transit and the interaction between transportation and land use. He lives car-free in Northeast DC. Dan is the voice behind BeyondDC.com and also contributes regularly to the Washington Post's All Opinions Are Local blog and to GreaterGreaterWashington.org.