Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Getting Around DC

We had the option to drive down to DC but we didn't; we took a bus. We didn't want to deal with the actual trip down (I like sleeping), we didn't want to deal with fueling up, and we didn't want to deal with parking. Even if we had driven down to DC, we wouldn't have driven around the city anyway. Why deal with trying to find a parking spot or meters or fees for lots when there's an amazing public transportation system and Uber?

Let's discuss the Metro first. The DC Metro has five lines (red, blue, orange, yellow, and green) and has a sixth line that's currently under construction (silver). The lines wing out like an asterisk to different parts of town and into Virginia and Maryland.
The cost to ride the Metro depends on the time of day as well as the distance you're traveling. When you walk into a Metro station, you can check the card machine which will have an alphabetical list of the stops and the cost to get there (from the station you're currently in) for both peak and off-peak hours. Peak hours are from 6:30 to 9:00 and 15:30 to 19:00.

Most frequent Metro riders have the SmarTrip card, which is a permanent and reloadable card that can also be used on buses. But, if you're only in DC for a trip, you'll probably just pick up a paper Metro card. You can get a paper Metro card from one of the machines in the station and add money to it, as necessary. If you're planning on taking the Metro just once, you can put in the exact amount you need or just throw a few bucks on and wing it. You'll have to feed your card into the machine when you enter the Metro and again when you leave so don't lose it! If you happened to not put enough money on your card for your ride, the turnstile won't let you leave but don't worry. You can go to one of the machines and throw some more money on the card.

The paper Metro cards don't work on buses. For buses, make sure to have some cash (small bills!) on you. Each regular ride is $1.80 so have some coins as well, if you care about the $0.20 loss. Each express bus ride is $3.65. Just feed the money into the little money machine; and remember, you don't get change back so have exact change with you. Tip: for bus rides, just use your Google Maps app on your phone to help you figure out which bus to take.

Anyway, back to the Metro. Once you make it underground, you'll have to decide which train to take. Each line runs in two directions (duh) and the direction is indicated by the final stop on each end. So, for example, if you're taking the green line, you'll either be heading towards Greenbelt or Branch Ave. If you're unsure of which direction you need to go, just look around for a map or one of the columns that list the stations that each train is heading to. Once you figure out where you're going, wait on the appropriate side. When a train is approaching, the little lights along the edge of the platform will start to blink. Hop on the train, listen and watch for your stop, and get off when you're supposed to. Feed your card into the turnstile when you're leaving and you're good to go. By the way, your paper card will have its new balance printed onto it when you leave.
Okay, now let's talk about Uber. So I'd known about Uber for a while but had no reason to use it. It's available in NYC but since taxis are so readily available, I've never needed Uber. But, in DC, you have to call a cab, wait for 20 minutes, and then hop in and pay a jerky driver to take you where you need to be. However, with Uber, you just open up the app on your phone, set your location, and ask for an Uber. The app will contact the closest driver who will come find you. Then, you hop in and get chauffeured. After you're dropped off, you'll be sent a receipt (to the app), and that's it. You're done!
You can view rates in your city and decide whether or not the Uber is worth it. Plus, you just store your credit card information (or PayPal info) so you don't need cash. And, because the drivers earn commission based on reviews of their service, there are no tips involved when you're driven around. It's so easy! Even if you've just been at the bar having a few drinks, you can easily Uber and get to where you need to be without fiddling with a credit card, which is an aspect I really like.
To actually use the app, you'll have to register and put in some valid payment information. Then, you'll find yourself on a map and either set your location based on where your phone thinks you are or you can input an address if you think that'll make things easier. Once you set your pick up location, you'll request a car. Then, Uber will show you a photo of your driver, the type of car he/she will be driving, and let you know how long it'll take for him/her to arrive. You can also watch the car heading towards your location in real time, which is kind of stalker-ish if the driver is your former lover, but totally normal and extremely awesome when you're waiting for your cab.

So that's it for my take on getting around DC. If you have any tips of your own, throw them in the comments!

xoxo.

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