Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Getting Around

I’ve just succeeded in convincing myself that public transportation to and from my neighborhood really sucks. Given we were down to one working car today and we both had appointments at the same time, I opted to find a combination of ways to get home from downtown. Over two hours later I walked in the door.

My appointment was not far from the Foggy Bottom Metro stop, so the first leg of my trip was easy. I bought a $2 fare card, the minimum purchase even though the non-rush-hour fare at 1:00 was $1.65.

I decided to get off at the Pentagon because I thought there were lots of bus connections from there. I asked in the information kiosk and the attendant told me either a 16F or a 25 bus would do.

When I realized I needed $1.35 for the bus, I managed to sound pathetic enough that a nice woman gave me the $.35. But then I came to realize that neither of the buses the man had suggested went to my neighborhood.

After walking up and down and looking at the little maps that showed the routes, I figured out that a 28F or 28G would probably work. I called the number listed to find out when the next would be arriving. “They only run at rush hour,” the woman said. She proceeded to tell me I needed to get back on the Metro and go to King Street to get the correct bus. Knowing that was more money and time and way out of my way, I asked what the best bus leaving from the Pentagon would be. “7A,” she said. I found the place to wait for a 7A and learned that it ran hourly. The next one was coming in a few minutes.

It was a very circuitous route from the Pentagon that dumped me off on Beauregard Street, probably a half mile from my house. So I walked, and walked, and walked, going through unfamiliar townhouses and finally spotting the neighborhood tennis courts. By the time I walked through my door, a full two hours had elapsed. The same trip takes between 15 and 20 minutes by car.

The good news was I got some exercise, I had a chance to catch up with my neighbor who was outside picking up debris from yesterday’s storm, and when I did finally get home, I was greeted with the fact that the electricity, which had been off for almost 24 hours, was back on again.

So I return to the fact that I really would like to have the option of using public transportation for trips into the city, but 2 hours each way is entirely unacceptable.

On a more positive note, we did take a Metrobus from Dulles Airport to Roslyn on Sunday night. The cost was $3.10 each, as compared to probably $75 for a taxi. The 5A runs hourly and stops only twice. It's a great bargain!


Blogger Kristin said...

I'm a huge fan of the 5A. If not for that, I'm not sure if I'd ever fly out of Dulles.

Even in an area well covered by public transit, I have to research the buses before going anywhere and make sure I have enough cash for a cab.

4:28 PM  
Blogger lettuce said...

welcome back barbara! i've loved seeing your pictures, what a great holiday.

we are really spoiled for public transport over here, esp. where i am. This post makes me appreciate it all the more.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

You would think in a city like ours, this wouldn't be the case, but it certainly is. I find it impossible to use public transportation. We should all move in with Reya.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

You all should move in with me! That would be so much fun.

Barbara, I'm sorry you live out in the suburbs, but if you really want to pursue the public transportation idea, I'm sure you'll find many ways to get back and forth that don't take two hours. You were bushwhacking, and I know you're good at that, but having a plan in hand always shaves a lot of time off a journey.

glad your power is back on!

9:01 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

Now doesn't one of those cute little Vespa's, that the Italians are always buzzing about on, sound like a great idea?

11:18 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

I like the positive twist you put on a potentially negagive experience. Life is so much more enjoyable when you take lemons and make lemonade, isn't it? I am finding that perspective makes all the difference - and I am trying to stay on the bright side in all things.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- The average age on the 5A was probably about 30, so I can well imagine you using that bus!

Lettuce -- Having recently spent time in Europe, I was spoiled by the ease of getting around without a car. Unfortunately we here in the USA are a car-based society and there's no denying it. I keep hoping the rising cost of gas will pressure the local governments into improving the public transportation options.

Cube, Reya -- Great idea! We're all moving to Capitol Hill so we can easily ride the Metro.

I could cut perhaps 25 minutes off this commute by going to King Street and getting a better bus. But I am still a long way from the bus stop. I suppose I could ride my bike to the bus stop and lock it up the way others do... Maybe I'll try again.

Gewels -- If I weren't so scared of riding a scooter, I would be on a Vespa in a minute. It was a way of life where we were staying on the Amalfi Coast. You saw whole families on a single scooter puttering up and down those hills.

Gary -- There's usually a positive side to every problem if you look hard enough. But making lemonade reminds me of how much I miss the lemon tree that grew just outside our door in Praiano. There is nothing like lemonade with freshly picked lemons.

11:47 AM  
Blogger cyndy said...

I feel lucky to have a metro stop just a little over a mile down the street, but it's not nearly as enticing now that they charge for parking. I usually have a bunch of stuff with me that I can't really take on the bus.

There is a website for Metro where you can plot out your exact trip including the fare, times, and transfers. I haven't used it in a while but I found it before by googling DC Metro. You can even use it to get to BWI, but it takes forever.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- I'm usually a little more resourceful in matters like this. But being without power, I couldn't access the Internet and just decided to wing it!

12:29 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

So much of navigating public transportation comes down to plain old luck -- and, as Gary said, making lemonade out of lemons.

4:44 PM  
Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

this post echoes my experience using public transportation when I come to your neck of the woods to visit my parents (in dc proper I'm fine) - it is so frustrating. it is shameful that in the suburban communities that surround our nation's capital this is the norm!

but I give you many gold stars for sticking it out.... have you considered a high mileage scooter? I expect we will be seeing more and more scooters and motorbikes about - especially in communities where buses and other forms of mass transit leave much to be desired!

public transport sometimes does take longer than driving, but 2 hours vs 15 min is unacceptable!

10:01 AM  

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