Rachel Cooper
D.C. traffic and apartment commuting

The D.C. area is infamous for its commuting and traffic gridlock. To avoid a stressful daily commute, you should choose an apartment that's close to your workplace and has good access to public transportation. Weekday rush hour traffic is heaviest in D.C. between 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. Estimated driving times are unpredictable, as a minor accident can back up the highways for miles in either direction. Here are some tips for commuting in the D.C. area.


While all of the highways surrounding D.C. get congested during the morning and evening rush hours, driving is usually the most convenient option when traveling within the suburbs.

  • Check traffic alerts. Use a GPS to map the best route and stay flexible, taking detours and finding new ways to get around heavy traffic.
  • If you don’t mind the extra cost, use the HOT lanes in Virginia. These lanes use your EZ pass transponder to charge a toll and allow you to drive in the faster lanes.
  • Form a carpool. By sharing the ride, you will save money on fuel and car maintenance. Carpooling can also reduce time spent on the road, because you can use HOV lanes which usually move faster than the other lanes.
  • If you live in Virginia, you can use slugging, an organized system where commuters stop to pick up other passengers.


Subway and Bus

The Metrorail subway system includes six lines and serves 91 stations in D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia. Metrobus operates 1,500 buses. Both transit systems connect to bus lines in the suburbs. The Yellow/Blue lines connect with Reagan National Airport and the Silver line is under construction and will eventually provide service to Dulles International Airport. The DC Circulator is a local bus system with 5 routes around the most popular areas of the city.

  • Purchase and register a SmarTrip card. You may add value to the card from the convenience of your computer by visiting www.wmata.com/fares/smartrip. Metro will also replace the cared if it is lost or stolen for a $5 fee and you won’t lose the value on the card. The same card can be used to pay for Metrobus fare.
  • If you have a flexible work schedule, avoid traveling at the most crowded times, Monday through Friday, 7:45 to 8:45 a.m. and 4:45 to 5:45 p.m.
  • Don’t transfer lines if you can walk the distance between stations. Many stations are near each other and within an easy walk.
MetroRail avoids D.C. traffic
Photo Courtesy of RJ Schmidt/Creative Commons

Commuter Rail

There are two major commuter rail systems serving the D.C. area: Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) and Virginia Railway Express (VRE). Both systems operate Monday through Friday and have cross honor agreements with Amtrak to offer reduced fares for commuters.

  • Operational times are limited. Be sure to know the schedules and plan accordingly.

Commuting by Bike

D.C. is a bike-friendly city with more than 40 miles of bike lanes and Capital Bikeshare, the largest bike sharing program in the nation. There are approximately 440 stations and 3,700 bikes throughout Washington, DC; Arlington, VA; Alexandria, VA; Montgomery County, MD; and Fairfax, VA.

  • Sign up for a membership and use the bikes for an environmental-friendly commute.

SEE ALSO:  Insider Tips if you're Moving to D.C.

SEE ALSO:  12 great cities for cycling

Commuter Connections is a great resource for learning about ridesharing and other commuting programs around the capital region. For more information, visit www.commuterconnections.org

Find a D.C. apartment HERE



About The Author

Rachel Cooper is a freelance writer and author with more than a decade of online journalism and content creation experience. She has written for About.com, Washingtonian, Federal City Council, Montgomery Parks, Destination Maryland, Conde Nast Traveler, Payscale, Valpak, Grandparents.com, Washington Parent and more. Her books include Quiet Water: Mid-Atlantic, AMC’s Canoe and Kayak Guide to the Best Ponds, Lakes and Easy Rivers; 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Washington, D.C. and Images of Rail: Union Station in Washington, D.C.