The Washington, DC Area ranks in the top 10 worst commute times in the country. Depending on what publication you read, our area normally ranks as #2 or #3 on that list. (New York is usually #1). Scary! And now you just found out that your next duty station will be at Coast Guard Headquarters in South West DC. But what else can you expect of an area that has continual job growth every single year.
I have many Coast Guard clients who do relocate to this area. (Everybody has to take their turn at the dreaded Headquarters tour.) I always ask their criteria, needs, wants, etc. for their next home. One major criteria is commute times. Most people come here with the idea that they want a ‘reasonable’ commute time. And then I have to ask “what is reasonable to you?” Nine times out of ten, the answer is 20 minutes or less. (Hah...I try not to laugh). Very few commuters in this area are lucky enough to have that short of a commute time (me being one of them). But pretty much anyone working in Washington DC will have a decent commute time, unless they actually live in DC. Some Coasties do choose to live there, but most of my clients have opted for the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland as many of them have families and would prefer not to live in the city.
So what can you expect for commute times? From the information I gather from my clients, neighbors, friends, other Realtors, the average commute time is about 40 minutes to 1.5 hours. What? Yes, this is the reality we call living in the Metro Area. But don’t fret. There are plenty of commuting options and alternatives that can save you time and possibly money, no matter where you choose to live.
The Washington DC area has a great Metro Rail and Bus System. If you live in Fairfax County, Arlington County, Falls Church, and Alexandria on the Virginia side of DC there are many routes available throughout. In Maryland, Montgomery County and Prince Georges County have Metro stops, as well. Many of the outer counties also offer direct bus service to Metro Rail stops from local commuter lots, such as Omni Ride in Prince William County, VA.
Another option for the Outer burbs is the local railway services. Virginia offers the Virginia Railway Express (VRE), with lines that travel from Fredericksburg and the I-95 corridor. And also west of DC, starting in Manassas. In Maryland, you can utilize the MARC train service.
If you choose to live in Virginia, south of the city, there is a commuting phenomenon called “SLUGGING”. It is basically organized hitch-hiking where drivers pick up commuters heading for the same DC locations. Since I-95 requires 3 people in the car to be in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, this helps the driver meet this requirement thereby getting to work faster, and the “slugs” benefit the same and don’t have to pay for gas. Check out this website for more slugging information or just for fun...there is “slugging etiquette”.
Private van pools are another option. Several companies will set these up for you by matching you with other commuters going in your general direction. I’m aware of at least one Coast Guard van pool in Stafford that takes a group to Headquarters. Check out Commuter Connections for more information, or Silver Service Transportation.
One other source of general commuting information is the Commuter Pages. This website offers a good overview of many of the commuting options I listed above, if not more.
Keep in mind that as long as you get yourself to L’Enfant Plaza in DC, you will find a Coast Guard van to pick you up and take you to and from Headquarters. I understand they do have regular operating hours, but something to ask about when you check in with your new duty station.
What your commute ends up being and how you get there will all depend on where you live. So if you would like more housing information, please don't hesitate to contact me by phone or email. I’m always happy to help my fellow Coast Guard families.
Realtor and Accredited Staging Professional (and Spouse of Former Coastie)