How to Get Around DC Without Your Own Car

bike

Few things unite DC residents more than complaining about transportation options in the city.  Whether it’s a metro delay, backups on the Beltway, or an official motorcade, it seems there’s always an obstacle to getting to your destination in a timely, calm fashion.   Click more to see our top 5 options for getting around the city in a less stressful manner.

5) Metro/Bus We know.  We know.  But when Metro does work and it’s on time, there’s no quicker way to travel around the city.  If your commute is dependent on the metro, make sure you subscribe to MetroAlerts for delay notifications and familiarize yourself with the bus system in case you need a backup plan.  There are several apps you can use to see bus routes and times in your area, including iCommute.

Pros:

  • Buses are the most affordable public transportation option in the city.
  • Buses can take you to places metro cannot.
  • During rush hour, metro is still the quickest way to/from the DC suburbs.

Cons:

  • Not a 24/7 system.
  • Frequent delays and weekend track work (for metro).
  • Buses subject to the same traffic delays as cars are.

4) Capital Bikeshare/Your Own Bike

Biking is generally a great way to get around DC.  If you’re looking to bike more, we suggest checking out the WABA (Washington Area Bicyclist Association) website.  They also offer a number of classes on cycling at all levels and how best to commute by bike in this area.

Pros:

  • You can exercise and get to your destination at the same time.
  • Capital Bikeshare stations are practically everywhere and continue to expand out into the suburbs.
  • More bike lanes are available now than ever before.
  • Depending on where you’re going, there are numerous trails and paths you can take to get to your destination.

Cons:

  • Incidents of bike theft are high in the city.
  • Some Capital Bikeshare stations do not have bikes available during peak times.
  • If you’re using a bike to go to work, you’ll need to invest in appropriate safety equipment and other commuting essentials (i.e., bag to carry change of clothes, emergency repair kit, etc.) and be prepared for changes to weather and/or road conditions.

3)  Uber

Uber continues to rise in popularity as DC residents look for alternatives to taxis, especially during times and in neighborhoods where they are often not readily available.  Uber offers several levels of service that are meant to correspond with its clients’ needs and price points.

Pros:

  • There’s an app for that.
  • Depending on your location/destination, it can be easier to book Uber than to get a cab.
  • You can track the arrival of your vehicle on your phone.
  • Uber keeps your credit card on file, so you don’t have to have cash or credit on you to get a ride.
  • Flat rates available for transport to/from area airports.
  • You can get a price quote in advance.

Cons:

2.  Carsharing programs (Car2Go, Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare 

DC is home to the second highest number of individuals who do not own a car.  (New York is number one.)  Carsharing options are ideal for when you need to go somewhere and buy a lot of things (i.e., IKEA, Target, etc.) or when you are planning a day-long execursion outside of the city (i.e., Merriweather Post Pavilion, Baltimore, etc.).  They often offer more flexibility than car rental companies and can end up being more affordable.

Pros:

  • There’s an app for that.
  • All options usually end up being cheaper than a taxi (depending on your use and destination)
  • Enterprise CarShare has no annual membership fee.
  • Car2Go members can use their cards to access vehicles in Austin, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, Portland, and San Diego – a great feature for frequent travelers.
  • Car2Go’s smart cars can fit in parking spaces many other cars cannot.
  • Zipcar and Enterprise Carshare offer a variety of vehicle types and sizes that can give you more flexibility depending on your transportation needs.

Cons:

  • Car2Go vehicles can only be parked in the District.
  • If you’re uncomfortable with and/or don’t like smart cars, Car2Go isn’t for you.
  • You can still get a parking ticket if you’re not familiar with your carsharing company’s parking policies and how they apply to DC’s parking rules.
  • Enterprise Carshare and Zipcar often requires advanced planning; last-minute bookings might not always be available, especially in higher-usage neighborhoods.
  • Car2Go vehicles are generally available where they were last parked, making their availability sparse in some areas depending on the time of day/night.


1) Your Feet

When all else fails, there’s always walking (or running) to your destination.  This primarily works in the downtown corridor, but if you’re in really good shape, you can make it work even further out.

Pros:

  • You can save a lot on your transportation costs.
  • You can exercise and get to your destination at the same time.
  • Many trails and paths are suitable to walkers/runners and can help you avoid car congestion and traffic.
  • Your feet are not subject to traffic and/or public transportation delays.
  • You can see and experience more of the city by foot.

Cons:

  • It takes longer than biking or public transportation options.
  • You can’t walk and/or run everywhere in this area.
  • Your walk/run is subject to current weather conditions and, like biking, usually requires carrying additional equipment/supplies.
  • You’re still subject to motorcade delays.
  • If you’re running, you’ll probably need access to a shower once you reach your destination.

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