People who use active transportation on a daily basis know that using a few extra tools can make your trip easy and reliable. Whether you’re looking to test out a commute by bus, hop on a Capital Bikeshare or even run to work (yes, people do this – no it’s not me!), browse these pro tips for some insider knowledge.
1. Transportation Apps
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, download some apps! Apps make using active transportation easy and stress-free. Knowing when your bus or train will arrive can make planning when to leave more predictable, an especially important tool when you want to freeze outside as little as possible. Knowing where to find a Capital Bikeshare station and bikes is crucial when you are in an unfamiliar area but want to get on one of the familiar bikes.
2. Don’t forget your Capital Bikeshare key fob (but, don’t panic if you do)
Always, always, always have your Capital bikeshare key fob on your person. One of the best features of the system is using it at a moment’s notice. There’s nothing worse than walking up to a Capital Bikeshare station and realizing the 5 minute ride you were about to take has just become a 20 minute walk because you forgot your key. This is especially frustrating when you used our first tip to avoid a Metro delay by using one of the cool apps but now don’t have your key to ride!
In case you do forget your key (shame on you! Nah, just kidding), Capital Bikeshare has added a new feature to the system that lets you use the credit or debit card associated with your account to access a bike instead. Simply walk up to the station kiosk, choose “rent a bike” and insert the card you used to purchase your annual membership. Follow the onscreen instructions and use the five digit code provided to access one of the bikes at the station.
3. Dock-surf on Capital Bikeshare to avoid usage fees
Now that we have convinced you to never forget your key fob, we’d like to let you in on another secret. Dock-surfing. Some people refer to it as daisy-chaining, both are correct. It’s the process of docking your bike in a station and pulling it back out during your ride to reset your 30 minutes of free ride time. Dock-surfing works great for longer distance rides such as going from Arlington into downtown DC.
4. Pack a light rain jacket instead of an umbrella
No, we aren’t saying you should throw away all of your umbrellas, but umbrellas are useful tools only when it’s actually raining. Carrying one on a bright sunny day will force people to give you weird looks and wonder why you are wasting space in your bag. Opt instead for a thin and super-light rain jacket that you can roll up to save space and avoid extra weight. We’re fans of items with multiple uses and the jacket works great as an extra layer for those unexpected changes in temperature (looking at you Monday morning). Now you have an item with multiple uses that you have at all times so you aren’t caught in an afternoon shower.
5. Have a backup plan
One of the greatest aspects of alternative transportation is its flexibility. Metro, biking and buses all have alternatives when things are not going according to plan. It’s all about choices. Using myself as an example, I generally ride a Capital Bikeshare to the Metro before finishing the last couple miles of my commute on the train. However, when issues like Metro delays or bad weather arise I can easily choose other options such as bus routes and alternate Metro transfers to use a different line. The backup plan is also useful in non-commute situations. Next time you head out to dinner try using Capital Bikeshare to reach your destination and then use Metro, Uber or Lyft to get home when it’s late and you don’t think you can pedal the whole way.
6. Compare prices on your apps
Speaking of backup plans, you should also keep in mind you can compare some of your backup options’ costs. One of the best features of DC’s newest carpooling options is the ability to show how much you’ll pay before even ordering a car. On both the Uber and Lyft apps you can use their carpooling options (uberPOOL or LyftLine) by entering your pickup and drop-off location. The app gives you a quote on your trip then and there so you know before you go. Sometimes uberPOOL may be surging at a much higher rate than LyftLine and vice versa. Always check both apps before booking your trip, you could save a few dollars!
7. Auto-reload your SmarTrip card
Ever hear your train roaring into the Metro Station only to find out that your card is at -$0.20 and you can’t get through the fare gate? Yea, us too. It’s a bummer, no one wants to walk back to the fare machine and have to refill their card. That’s why you should be taking advantage of auto-reload which fills your card automatically any time you go below a certain balance. You can even choose how much you want to auto-reload. $10, $20 or $100 – the choice is yours.