WARNING: Not for the Faint of Heart

WARNING: Not for the Faint of Heart

Although the title might lead you to believe otherwise, the content of this post has no blood, guts, or gore. It neither contains profanity, nudity, nor substance abuse. Not for the Faint of Heart is my way of illustrating for you the “eat or be eaten” culture of commuting in Washington, D.C. As an intern, I did not bring my car to the city. Instead, I have committed myself to the use of public transportation.

 

Crosswalk

 

Walking

 

The day I arrived in D.C., instead of taking a taxi I figured I would save money by walking from Union Station to the townhouse I am staying at. I was lugging all of my baggage behind me as I came upon an intersection. The light said “Don’t Cross”, but no one was coming except for a lady on a bicycle – not very ominous. I figured she would yield to me, the pedestrian. At my home university, pedestrians have the right-of-way at all the cross walks. “You need to hurry – you’re jaywalking!” She spouted as she nearly ran me over. Those were the first welcoming words anyone spoke to me after upon arriving in D.C., and that was just the beginning.

 

Escalator

 

Metrorail

 

Later that day, I learned a valuable lesson regarding the use of the escalators to and from the Metrorail. If you are wanting to stand, do so at your leisure on the right side of the escalator. If you are in a mad dash, do so on the left side of the escalator. If you forget and inadvertently stand stationary on the left, may God be with you because you are probably going to get screamed at, yelled at, or pushed down/up the escalator – a very rude awakening. If you think I am exaggerating, ask anyone else that has used the Metrorail escalators during rush hour.

 

Unlike Chicago or New York City where you can get an unlimited CTA Pass or Metrocard that will avail you to unlimited use of any subway or bus for 30 days for about $100, WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) charges $230 for a 28 day pass to only the Metrorail – no bus use. Because I am unwilling to fork out that kind of money or pay $4.20 (the daily fare to commute to and from work on the Metrorail for me), I spent $25.00 to get a one-month pass for the Capital Bikeshare. For that monthly price I can take a Bikeshare bike from one of the 250 stations in the area and use it to get to where I need in the city, as long as I return it to another station within 30 minutes.

 

Capital Bikeshare

 

Biking

 

Two nightmares that often come to fruition with the Bikeshare is that you are either in a rush and you get to the station nearest you and there are no bikes left, or you arrive to your destination station and the station is full. One morning I was running late for work and as the Bikeshare station came into view, there was only one bike left. Approaching from the other end of the block carrying a helmet was another Capital Bikeshare member. Due to some fast footwork, I was able to secure that bike before him. Other days I am less fortunate.

 

Although it is the cheapest choice, battling the D.C. traffic on a bicycle is quite the endeavor every day. Luckily, many streets have bike lanes, but for those that do not you are left with the hope that your little bell will be heard amongst the orchestra of honking horns and revving engines. Even if you find your way through the jungle of perpendicular and diagonal streets which are named after letters, numbers, and states, you return home in a thick layer of car exhaust and sweat.

 

Lessons to be Learned

 

If there is a lesson to be learned from utilizing public transportation in D.C., it is punctuality. After a week of arriving late to all my destinations and appointments, I realized that the excuses like “the metro was running late” or “there were no bikes” had all been told before, and it is expected of me to anticipate possible travel interruptions and plan accordingly. If I am told to arrive at 1:00 p.m., 12:40 p.m. is my goal for arrival. One of the staff members of The Washington Center, Josh Bartell, often says, “To be early is to be on time.” Although this is not a completely new concept for me, it is very true and especially relevant when commuting in Washington, D.C.

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