Do Student Voices

Getting Around D.C.

With limited parking options and traffic at every hour of the day, driving is not the best way to get around the city. D.C is a very walkable city with one of the safest, cleanest, and most efficient transportation systems in the world. Here are some ways DC students can get around the city quickly and affordably!

Capital Bikeshare is one of the many transportation options, and works great if you’re worried about keeping your nice bike on campus! 

TO ALL DC STUDENTS-  With so many museums, restaurants, and events happening all over D.C., it is important to know the best ways to navigate the District. From free university shuttles, D.C. public transit, biking, and rideshares, there are numerous transportation options to go explore a Farmer’s Market downtown, to  hike one of D.C.’s numerous trails, or to go back home for the weekend. Keep reading to figure out what options are  best for you! 

University Free Campus Shuttle Services

Many universities offer free shuttle services that can take students to other campus areas or other tourist areas  in D.C. For example, GW offers a free shuttle service that runs throughout the week between the Foggy Bottom and VSTC Campuses and Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon Campuses. Georgetown GUTS buses also travel to metro stops in Rosslyn, VA and to Dupont Circle. Since there are so many interesting places all over the city,  free shuttles are a great resource to efficiently travel around D.C., while saving money by not using rideshares. 

Students taking advantage of the free GW campus shuttles

Each university offers different shuttle routes with a different schedule, so I would recommend looking more into your universities transportation plan before planning out a trip. If you need to get somewhere very quickly, however, the free shuttles may not be the best option. 

D.C. Metrorail

With a passion for more eco-friendly lifestyle choices, many DC students  opt for public transportation, like the D.C.Metrorail, to satisfy their transportation needs. The Metrorail runs from 5:00am to 11:30pm Monday through Thursday, from 5:00am to 1:00am on Fridays, from 7:00am to 1:00am on Saturdays, and from 8:00am to 11:00pm on Sundays, so it is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to travel around the city and to the outskirts of Virginia and Maryland. 

The metro stops clustered downtown put you within walking distance of several museums, shopping centers, restaurants, and monuments. This is especially great for any internships you may have during your time in the District. To save the most amount of money, pick up a SmartTrip card at a station or at any CVS, so you’ll be ready to start your first adventure immediately! 

If your metro gets delayed, you can kill time taking in the beautiful architecture of D.C.’s metro stations.

D.C. MetroBus

Without having to walk any further than a few feet off campus, numerous bus stops are located near major university campuses that can take you all around the city. For more information visit the interactive map at goDCgo to find the most convenient bus stops and routes near your college. The MetroBus is a great resource for getting to areas that the MetroRail doesn’t service, like Georgetown.  Popular bus lines are the 30 series, which pass through Friendship Heights, Georgetown, the National Mall, and Eastern Market; the S series which take you up towards Rock Creek Park; and the L series, which go from the Foggy Bottom Metro up Connecticut Avenue to Dupont Circle and Woodley Park. Since buses run less frequently, make sure to plan your trip ahead of time with the WMATA website. Right now, the MetroBus is $2.00 using a SmarTrip® card or cash, but I recommend checking in to see if different routes are priced differently during  Peak times.

MetroBus stop outside the Dupont Circle Station

D.C. Circulator

Often confused with the Metrobus, the D.C. Circulator is another public bus that operates around various university campuses and can take you to many tourist stops throughout the District. The Georgetown-Union Station route connects with Downtown D.C., which has stops along K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. In addition, the D.C. Circulator has routes that go from Dupont Circle to Rosslyn, from Eastern Market to L’Enfant Plaza, from Woodley Park to Adams Morgan and around the National Mall. All Circulator rides cost just $1 in cash or on SmarTrip. You can utilize this free service Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Busses typically arrive every ten minutes. While the Circulator is currently free, it sometimes is a $1 flat fare, so do your research when planning your trip.

With its bright, red and yellow paint and easy-to-spot signs, you can’t miss the DC Circulator.

Bikes and Scooters

With more and more bikeshare options emerging all over the city, you don’t need to own a bicycle to enjoy cycling around D.C. With docking stations within walking distance of  campus, Capital Bikeshare allows residents and tourists to rent one of its 4,500 bikes across 7 jurisdictions in  D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. It’s only $1 for a single 30 minute ride or $8 to rent a bike for the entire day, but watch out for late fees when returning your bike because they can add up! For Capital Bikeshare, you are able to pick up a bike at any one of their 500 stations and return it to any other station. 

Left: LimeBike at the Lincoln Memorial. Right: Bird Scooter and Capital Bikeshare.

Recently,  JUMP by Uber, LimeBikes and LimeScooters, Skip Scooters, and other brands of bikes and electric scooters have become more common in D.C. These dockless bikes and scooters can be found all over the city, and you just need to download the app to see which ones are ready to use nearby. Most dockless bikes and scooters are activated by scanning a QR code or tapping your phone on it. These are convenient for short trips because you can leave them anywhere when you’re done!

Uber, Lyft, and Taxis

With so many rideshare options available in DC, I recommend having most of these apps on your phone, so you can see which ones have the best prices when you’re planning your next trip. While taxis are available and  accept credit cards, I have found it more convenient to use rideshare apps, since you can request a ride immediately and use promotional discounts. Especially when you are traveling back to campus late at night, or had a heavy grocery trip at Trader Joe’s, Ubers and Lyfts can be your saving grace. 

Ordering an Uber is an easy and quick way to get around the city.

It’s also important to check all your options before you travel because the UberPool and Lyft Line services can actually be cheaper and quicker than the metrorail or buses. Be careful during peak travel times -fares can be extremely high. 

Walking and Running

One of the luxuries of living in DC is the amount of walking, running, and hiking trails and paths woven throughout the city. For the simplest and most touristy run or walk, I recommend walking down to the Georgetown Waterfront and following the Rock Creek Park trail to the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall. There are so many tourist attractions that are only a 30 minute walk from different universities,  such as the National Mall, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Union Market, and the National Cathedral. It is also easy to walk to other universities depending on where you are. For those more avid runners, the Mt. Vernon Trail stretches out 18 miles down the Virginia side of the Potomac River and the C&O Canal Trail goes up towards Maryland for 185 miles. 

Left: LimeBike at the Lincoln Memorial. Right: Bird Scooter and Capital Bikeshare.

While some students do pay for parking spots off campus, I think that understanding DC’s public transportation system and staying active while walking or biking around the city are the best ways to explore DC!