A recent article featured in The New York Times highlighted bike commuters who are traveling 30-40 miles one way to get to work, some leaving earlier than 5am to get to their Manhattan offices on time. As a bike commuter, it’s great to read stories like this and see the growing popularity of biking as transportation not just in DC but throughout the country. However, for the majority of those who will not be biking 40 miles to work in the near future (including myself), what non-SOV (single occupancy vehicle) options are there for commuters who don’t live close to local public transportation systems?
In the Northern Virginia and DC region, there are actually many choices available for employees who live further away from Arlington in areas such as Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties. In addition, the recent transit benefit increase has made these options more affordable for commuters as well. Read below to learn about the different modes and transit systems that can help make your long-distance commute less stressful, cheaper, and a better part of your day!
Commuter trains are a great way to get to work – not only can you avoid the typical traffic congestion and frustrating drivers, you can also read, check email, or just relax during your commute! The MARC train service brings riders from various points in Maryland to Union Station in DC, where they can transfer to the Metro to get into Arlington. VRE rail service, who’s on-time performance was 96% in 2012, picks up commuters from several points along the Manassas and Fredericksburg lines. The trains go directly into Arlington to the Crystal City VRE station, as well as downtown DC.
There are several transit systems that offer commuter bus service for commuters into Arlington and DC. These buses have similar benefits to commuter trains, and are often able to skip traffic due to HOV or Express lanes. Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission's (PRTC) OmniRide provides commuter bus options from Manassas, Woodbridge, and other outlying areas, with service to the Pentagon, Crystal City, and the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor. Loudoun County Transit also provides commuter bus service from areas such as Leesburg, Ashburn, and the Dulles area to Rosslyn, the Pentagon, and Crystal City. Both OmniRide and Loudoun County Transit accept SmarTrip cards, so be sure to talk to your employer and take advantage of the transit benefit increase!
Finally, as many commuters are aware, carpooling and vanpooling with coworkers or neighbors can be great door-to-door options that don't involve driving alone. These options can help save money by reducing gas and car maintenance expenditures, toll fees, and parking costs. For vanpool riders, the $245 transit benefit can be used to cover the associated costs, depending on the vanpool company. For a list of ride matching services and vanpool companies, check out this list on CommuterPage to get started.
If you live far away from where you work, consider one of these transportation options! And while biking all the way to work may not be feasible for you, try riding your bike for the “first mile” and “last mile” of your commute – i.e. instead of driving to the Park and Ride lot or commuter train station, ride your bike or walk. Every little bit counts!
To learn more about these commuting options or the increased tax-free transit benefit, contact ATP today!