Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
If you’re planning to visit or work in Washington DC, you’ve probably thought about transportation.
DC is known for its sprawling public transit system that can take you almost anywhere in the DC metro area.
However, while public transit is cheaper than driving elsewhere in the nation, it’s not always the case in the capital city.
If you take the train during rush hour, it can easily cost you up to $5.90 one way ($11.8 both ways) or $259.6/month.
If you don’t live within walking distance from the metro, you’ll need to drive to the metro station and pay at least $5 for parking before you hop on the train.
If you want to get around in downtown DC on top of commuting to work, be prepared to pay extra for parking (except for Sunday) or for the train.
Life’s too short to fret over transportation. Below are 6 ways to cut travel costs in the capital city.
I first heard this term from a colleague who uses slugging to go to work. Slugging is “a unique form of commuting found in the Washington, DC area” where commuters pick up total strangers and drive them to the city.
Slugging has its ow rules, etiquette, and a map of locations. Thousands of drivers and commuters take advantage of this unique DC carpooling system.
It’s mutually beneficial. Drivers can meet the required 3-person high occupancy vehicle (HOV) minimum to drive on a faster lane while passengers can commute for FREE.
I haven’t tried slugging before, but my colleague has done it for 3 years and has never had any issues (i.e. safety).
2. Avoid taking the Metro rail during rush hours
The Metro rail is open during the following hours:
— 5 am Weekdays
— 7 am Weekends
— 12 am Daily
Unless you have to be somewhere at a specific time, try to avoid riding the train during rush hours on weekdays: 5 – 9:30 AM & 3 – 7 PM.
— $2.15 minimum
— $5.90 maximum
Off-peak hours are all other times.
— $1.75 minimum
— $3.60 maximum
The longer your train ride is, the more expensive the fare will be.
If you’re in school and have to take the train during rush hours, try to squeeze 2-3 classes in one day. It might be stressful to go through so many classes back to back, but you will be able to save a lot of commute time and money.
One of my friends in grad school had 3 classes on Thursdays and didn’t go to school the rest of the week. She spent 1.5 hours commuting to school and back instead of 4.5 hours. She was able to devote that 3-hour difference to her a full-time job and family.
DC Metro during rush hours
3. Taking the Metro bus instead of the Metro rail
You can easily get from point A to point B sometimes by taking either the bus or the train. While riding the train can cost up to $5.90 during rush hour (the longer the distance, the more you have to pay), taking the bus is only $1.75 no matter where you go.
— If you take the train from Shady Grove Metro Station to Silver Spring Metro Station (red line), it will take roughly 60 minutes and cost $5.90 during rush hour and or $4.65 during off-peak hours.
— If you take the bus, it will take 79 minutes and cost $1.75.
If you’re a fan of biking, you can take advantage of Capital Bikeshare, which offers 3,700 bikes and 440 stations in 5 jurisdictions: Washington, DC.; Arlington, VA; Alexandria, VA; Montgomery, MD and Fairfax County, VA.
This is a quick guide of Bikeshare. You can pay $2 for a single trip, $8 for a 24-hour, or $85 for annual membership for trips under 30 minutes. If you want to rent a bike for the whole day, you can explore different options on Bike Rentals.
Some of my colleagues bike for 30 minutes to get to work from home. Some bike to the Metro stations (which offer bike trails for you to lock your bikes) to avoid paying for parking and then take the train.
If you choose to live near your job, chances are you can walk to work and are close to many amenities in the city. It’s common for people to walk 20-30 minutes to work or to school in DC. If you live within a 15-minute walk from school, work, or a Metro station, you’re lucky.
Living downtown is expensive, but if the high rent can be offset by not having any transportation costs, it’s golden.
It’s very common for people in DC to have a one-hour commute one way. Downtown DC is expensive, so many residents choose to live in Maryland or Virginia and commute into the city. I had a colleague who spent 3 hours commuting every day. If your commute is less than 30 minutes, consider yourself lucky.
You can ask your colleagues, friends, or classmates to see if they live near you and are willing to carpool with you either straight to work/class or just to the metro. In return, you can offer to pay for gas if you don’t have a car and can’t take turns driving.
Living in an expensive city, I always find ways to cut costs and want to help others do the same. I hope this post will be useful to you if you live in DC or when you come to the city one day.