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Getting on the Bus: My First Day

Ayanna Jacobs
Ayanna Jacobs July 27, 2015 Ayanna Jacobs works in Development at Arlington Free Clinic. As a new college grad, she enjoys spending her free time reading all the books she couldn’t read while in school, and going on runs through the neighborhood.
ATP TAKEAWAY: Trying public transportation for the first time can be hard, but ATP can help you create a custom commute and even suggest real-time tools to get you to work on time!

I’ll be honest. The first day I tried to use public transportation to commute to work on my first day of work (also my second day living in Arlington) was a complete disaster. I live in Crystal City and work about three miles away at Arlington Free Clinic on Columbia Pike. It should have been easy. But I was new to Arlington and unfamiliar with staple landmarks like Pentagon City Metro/Bus Station.Ayanna Jacobs, Arlington Free Clinic

I left my apartment about an hour before I needed to be at work, and seeing that it was a nice day, decided to skip the suggested Blue or Yellow Line Metro to the bus stop, and walk instead. Google Maps was the first navigation aid I tried.

Unfortunately, Google Maps inadvertently took me past Pentagon City Station, to somewhere on Army Navy Drive. By the time I finally made it to my bus stop, I was tired, hot and confused. I managed to get on the right bus and even arrived at my first day of work a little early. But it had still taken me over 45 minutes to go 3 miles. I was discouraged and feared that I would absolutely need a car for my commute. I texted my mom later that evening with a fair share of melodrama: “I can’t live like this!”

If you’ve had a similar experience, my advice is not to get discouraged. I’ve been using a combination of Metro and Metrobus to get to work for about three weeks now, but it took only about three days for my commute to become seamless. I now use Pentagon City Metro Station as my regular bus stop (which I discovered by happy accident on my second day of work).

Another discovery that helped make my commute easier was CityMapper, which I now use daily. It just seems to know Arlington a little better and much more than I do. CityMapper gives suggested routes, bus-only routes and rain safe routes. And – as an extra perk – it estimates the amount of calories you might burn by walking or riding a bike. I would highly recommend it.

As new college graduates, most of my friends already living in the area do not own cars and use public transportation to get to work. But I had spent the past four years in a small, college town where the farthest place you might want to go was a 10 minute walk away.  So, when I moved to Arlington a few weeks ago without a car, I was not looking forward to becoming a regular user of public transit.

In these past three weeks, though, I’ve come to enjoy my morning commute to work. It’s a routine I depend on and have gotten used to. I take the 16G from Pentagon City, which comes every 15 minutes. I usually Metro to the bus stop, but on nice mornings I enjoy a pleasant walk from my apartment. The entire trip is all under 30 minutes!

I also enjoy seeing the familiar faces who take more or less the same route as I do. There’s the pleasant bearded guy at the bus stop who waits in the seat farthest to the left listening to music. There’s the woman who always wears her hair in a bun. There are the same few rotating bus drivers. Occasionally I’ll even bump into one of my co-workers and we’ll chat about our evenings, weekends or the weather.

Not having a car in Arlington has turned out to be a great thing. I feel a little more connected to the city using public transit. A little bit more invested. A little more at home. Arlington is a really wonderful community, and it’s nice to know that I’m doing what I can to reduce my carbon footprint, and make the streets a little less crowded for everyone.

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Tags: Bus, Arlington County, ATP Services, Commute


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