In many cities and towns across America, car ownership is expected. In these communities, the distance between homes and businesses is too far to traverse on foot, so everyone has to drive. In addition to the expense of owning a car, the stress of traffic leaves many people wishing for alternative forms of transportation.
Fortunately, in Arlington County, there are plenty of ways of getting around that don’t require owning a vehicle and make it possible to live an active lifestyle. In fact, more and more Arlingtonians are moving in and most of them don’t own a car. Whether you want to be healthier, save money on gasoline or reduce your carbon footprint, now is the time to go car-free.
Here are 7 tips to help you get started
1) Consider the transit options where you live
Not everywhere in Northern Virginia is suitable to living without a car. If you work in DC and live in an area without Metro access, you probably can’t go car-free just yet, but you could start by going car-lite. Consider moving to one of Arlington’s Urban Villages, areas that are well-connected by transit, bike lanes and sidewalks. Otherwise, to reduce your carbon footprint, you could consider taking up carpooling.
2) Familiarize yourself with the public transit near you
At first, navigating the transit system can seem daunting, but, once you get the feel for it, it’s easy. Arlington has 11 stations on Metrorail's Orange, Blue, Silver and Yellow lines, which connects us to the greater Washington region. Metrobus is DC’s regional bus system with 20 lines that go through Arlington. Arlington Transit (ART) serves 15 local routes within Arlington. Need more info on ART and Metrobus? Check out this informative blog: ART vs Metrobus: What's the Difference?
Buy a SmartTrip card to make paying for all these services easy; to see all the local stops near you, use the CarFreeNearMe tool.
3) Become a regular at your local shops
While it may be tempting to hop in a car and head to the nearest Walmart, all daily destinations are within walking distance in Arlington. When you seek them out, you’ll find wonderful locally-owned stores, coffee houses and restaurants.
4) Make biking part of your routine and invest in a sturdy lock
Getting around by bicycle is as spontaneous as walking but up to 5 times more efficient. Make a habit of getting around using your bike. Pick one location to always go to on your bike, like the grocery store or the pharmacy. Since a bike is a big investment, invest in a sturdy lock, preferably a metal U-lock, which thieves can’t break with bolt-cutters. If you’re apprehensive about riding on the street, take a class in road safety.
5) Download the right transportation apps
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t use your smartphone to help you get around. Google Maps will give you directions using public transportation. The app DC Transit Info offers real-time arrival information for Metrorail stations and bus stops. DC Metro and Bus is another app that provides real-time rail and bus predictions (available on the App Store and Google Play). And more apps are coming out all the time - check out The Washington Post's recent round up of transit apps.
6) Splurge on a taxi, Uber or Lyft once in a while
Sometimes, you’re tired, it’s raining and you just want to get home as soon as possible. Although it costs more than taking a bus, sometimes it’s worth paying for the convenience. After all, think of all the money you’re saving by not owning a car.
7) Rent or borrow a car when you need one
Sometimes, you are left with no options except driving: you have a wedding to go to outside Virginia or you have some large items to pick up at the hardware store. For days like these, there’s ZipCar and Car2Go (coming soon to Arlington County), which let you rent a car for a few hours at a time.
Still have questions?
Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP) can help commuters from residential properties, employers and commercial properties. With services ranging from custom commute plans to free maps and brochures, ATP can help you choose a better commute. Email ATP at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today.