Commuting in our DC Metro Area
Commuting is one of the major considerations people make when deciding whether to buy a home in the Metro area – whether you are going into downtown DC, across Montgomery County or across the Potomac river to Virginia. As you determine your relocation priorities, your new home’s location will play a huge role in how long it will take you to get to work, your children’s schools, local businesses etc.
Since the majority of the federal government is located in Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Howard County, Prince George’s and Prince William Counties, were where most commuters came from. Employees commute from as far away as Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia into the Washington metropolitan area. However, employment has dispersed throughout the area, causing Maryland and Virginia suburbs to evolve.
Some people choose to do a reverse commute. For example, you could live in D.C. and commute out to Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Howard County, Prince George’s or Prince William County. Many people live and work in Montgomery County, so knowing the “road less traveled” helps with your commuting time. Home prices outside of Washington, D.C. are lower which is why many people choose to live further out, regardless of where they work.
Travelling to and from DC and Virginia is also little bit challenging since the beltway 495, 95 & 395 are the main drags to DC. Interstate 66 has recently established a 10-mile stretch of tolls in Northern Virginia. All vehicles using the toll lanes, except motorcycles, need an E-ZPass transponder to pay the toll or an E-ZPass Flex transponder set to “HOV” so they can claim the free ride in a carpool of at least two people. Traffic is known to build up around these areas during rush hour so commuters should always keep that in mind.
RUSH HOUR is something Montgomery County, MD home owners must keep in mind! It is a fact that during the morning hours between 7:00 and 9:00 am and evenings between 4:00 and 6:00 pm, traffic moves at a snail’s pace on certain parts of Interstate 495 (the “Beltway”) and I-270. It is a reality we begrudgingly have to deal with. But, we have choices!
If you prefer to commute in the comfort of your very own vehicle you will most likely have routing options. The 64 miles of the Beltway run through Maryland and Virginia to encircle D.C. By virtue of being closer to the city, property values inside the Beltway are higher. Major routes from the Maryland side of the Beltway include Wisconsin Avenue (Rte. 355), Connecticut Avenue (Rte. 185) and Georgia Avenue (Rte. 97).
In Montgomery County’s central corridor, I-270 is the main commuting route to the Beltway. Serving Bethesda, Potomac, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Clarksburg, this eight-lane highway carries heavy commuter traffic. High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes for two passengers or more are marked for those who car - or vanpool during peak hours.
From western Montgomery County, Route 28 (Darnestown Rd.) brings you into North Potomac, where you can get onto I-270 or alternatively take River Road directly into Washington.
From eastern Montgomery County, including Olney and Silver Spring, the highly traveled Georgia Avenue (Rt. 97) can take you into the city, onto the Beltway, or to many of the other main roadways.
The ICC (Inter-County Connector), also known as MD 200, is an 18-mile toll highway connecting I-270 in Montgomery County to I-95 in Prince George’s County. Commuters are required to have an EZ-PASS transponder and is intended to lighten the load of commuter traffic on the Beltway. Major employers, e.g. USDA and the University of Maryland, are located in Prince Georges County.
BY BUS OR TRAIN
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates both Metro train and bus service throughout the area. The Metro rail system has 86 stations, 42 of which offer hourly and daily rates for parking. At 35 of these, riders can purchase permits to park in reserved spaces. Parking is free on weekends and holidays. Montgomery County maintains additional Park-N-Ride lots near Metro stations and bus routes. Free bike racks and pay bike lockers are also available at Metro stations. Some neighborhoods, such as King Farm in Rockville, provide shuttle bus service to the nearest Metro stop.
Montgomery County also has its own Ride On bus service, with 80 routes running throughout the county. Other parts of the Washington metropolitan area offer additional commuter bus choices: The Bus, in Prince Georges County; ART in Arlington County, VA; and Fairfax Connector in Fairfax County.
You might also take the MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter) commuter train, with stops at Union Station in D.C., Penn Station in Baltimore, BWI airport, and New Carrollton, MD, among others. Comparable are the VRE trains running throughout Northern Virginia.
OTHER COMMUTING OPTIONS
Ride-sharing programs such as van and carpools have been a great help to some people. Visit the D.C. area’s ERideShare to find others looking for a carpool in your area. Check with your employer about participating in WMATA’s tax-saving “Smart Benefits Program”, which can be beneficial for both parties. Also, check into the “Guaranteed Ride Home” program, which offers regular carpoolers and transit riders a free taxi ride home in case of emergency.
Have you heard of “car sharing”? Members pay an annual fee for the ease and flexibility of not having to own a car (and all of the expenses that come with car ownership) while at the same time having a car at their disposal. The hourly and daily rates for vehicle use cover insurance, gas, and a guaranteed parking spot. Almost all Metro rail stations have shared cars available through ZipCar.
Another option with Car2go you get the benefit of being able to rent a vehicle by the minute, and you don’t necessarily have to reserve a vehicle – a great option for last-minute needs and quick trips, something you don’t get with Zipcar.
uberPool and Lyft Line Ride Share programs have become popular alternatives for commuters as well. With uberPool and Lyft Line you can select your location, time of pickup and destination, and can cost sometimes as low as $3.00. To start, commuters have to download the App onto their iPhone or Android. With uberPool and Lyft Line, a driver will elect to pick you up if there are other people in the area that need go in the same direction. This dramatically reduces the cost for commuters because you and the other passengers share the entire cost of the ride. When you reach your destination, simply exit the car. Uber or Lyft will automatically charge the fare to the payment method on file.
If you are a bicyclist, check with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association for safe routes and lots of other useful information. There is also a C&O Canal bicycling guide.
Visit the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Commuter Connections page for more information.
Mel Golden can advise you about all your commuting options when buying a home in Montgomery County, Maryland. When you are considering relocating to Montgomery County, call or text us at 301-928-1772 or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.