If you prefer to go green in DC, you have options. Let’s face, we’re no New York, but between the transit system car and bike share programs, you’ve got enough options that having a car is optional. While the best mode of transportation is your own two feet, these other options will get you where you need to go in an eco-friendly way.
DC is a very bike-friendly place to live. With numerous bike lanes and a city that offers plenty of bike parking, you can pedal your way to sustainability. But if you’re unsure about owning a bike in the District, you can rent one with the Capital Bikeshare program.
Simply pick up a bike at one of the many stations around town and then return it to any other station when you’re done. A membership will get you going and then you pay by the minute. Whether you want a membership for as little as a day or three, or up to a year, a membership is necessary to use the bikes. After that, the first 30 minutes is free and then prices start at $1.50 for the next 30 minutes and increase for as long as you have the bike. The idea is that it’s more for a commute or quick jaunt from one place to another. If you want a bike to pedal around town for a whole day, it’s cheaper to find other places that will rent bikes.
While it’s not the most popular system in the DC area, the metro and bus system is extensive and can get you pretty much anywhere you want to go. Couple that with the light rail and DC makes it easier for commuters. To be fair, stops on the rail system are few and far between and the rents in those areas reflect the convenience, but it’s a clean, efficient system that moves quickly underground even when traffic is stopped.
With a constantly improving system and a quick payment method using Smart Trip cards, the DC metro and bus systems are an eco-friendly way of getting around the District. The system may be confusing to first-time tourists with the pay from point A to point B system, but many Washingtonians use the metro to commute and attend events where parking will be limited. Open until midnight during the week and 3 a.m. on the weekends, it’s a reliable system. Part of WMATA is the bus system, which Washingtonians that live within the DC lines would consider a lifeline of transportation through the district. The bus system is very reliable and safe. The only downside is that there are no dedicated bus lanes, so many buses are slowed down by traffic.
Getting out of the city is made easy with the light rail system in Maryland called the MARC train. You can go from DC to Baltimore and be dropped right by Camden for an Orioles game or take the MARC up to Frederick for the day. It’s quick, efficient and on time. The only downside to the MARC is that it only operates Monday to Friday.
If you don’t own a car or just need a car at a moment’s notice, there are two car share programs in DC that offer you different choices and prices depending on your needs.
Car2Go features a fleet of white-and-blue smart cars that do not require a yearly membership fee (though membership is required) and are $.38 per minute. The Car2Gos are parked anywhere in the city where there are unrestricted parking options. If you want to park it anywhere on a rush hour street, you won’t be able to, but any other metered space within the district lines is fair game. The cars do not have designated spaces, so the beauty of the program is that you can see which cars are nearby and grab one. Reservations can be held for 30 minutes. Once you arrive to the car, you simply hold up your card to the window and it will open for you to use. The only downside of Car2Go is that availability downtown during rush hours may be difficult.
If you know you’ll need a car for an extended period of time and you want to be sure you have that car reserved, then Zipcar is the way to go. It offers designated spaces and a fleet that boasts some of the hottest rentals around from mini convertibles to vans if you need to haul a lot of stuff. The benefit of Zipcar is that you can have a bigger car if you need it and you must pick up and return the car from its original location, so you know you’ll have your car when you need it. Membership is based on a yearly fee for occasional drivers, but there are discounted rate plans for as little as $6 per month.
If you live outside of the District and have to commute in every morning, you know just how bad DC traffic can be. While the area has responded by creating HOV lanes, many riders find it difficult to organize carpools, which is why the DC area has cultivated what is known as slug lines. Drivers can pull up to a slug line in the morning or evening commute and pick up as many passengers as they need to meet the HOV requirements and then off they go. Many of the slug lines will have destinations to help both the driver and the slug get to the destination faster. It’s a win-win situation for both. The driver gets in faster and the slug gets a free lift into DC.
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Jamie Hardin is the counter-culture
Washingtonian in the know. Inspired by food, sustainability issues, and public health, she prides herself on finding DC’s off-the-beaten path treasures. When she isnt enjoying organic food or reducing her carbon footprint, Jamie’s traveling on her scooter or walking her two pit bulls. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.