Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Distraction: Getting around DC

The DC Metro system was designed to do one thing, get suburbanites into DC to work, and then them home again.

Looking at a map of they system, you can see that all of the Metro lines go into and out of the city in a bizzarre, somewhat racially segregated, snake-pit like, spoke-hub model. It is also hampered by the fact that it closes at midnight on Sunday-Thursday and 3am on Friday and Saturday. (But I guess if I want to go out all night I should move back to NY. Washington is the city that sleeps).

Driving around DC is the stupidest thing you could possibly do. I don't own a car, and when I did, I would often leave it parked outside of the city at a friend's place or a Metro parking lot, for use only on the weekends to see friends in the suburbs or up north. Not only is our traffic among the worst in the world, parking in DC is extremely limited, and where it does exist, it makes your brain explode when you try and decipher it:

The Metro sucks at getting people from one part of the city to another part of the city...

Large portions of the city have no Metro stop, and getting across town requires you to go through the Gallery Place/Metro Center hub, adding 5-45 minutes to your travels. (You can get from one suburb to another connected suburb, but bring your copy of War and Peace or some other large Russian novel to read).

Having said that, I have to confess that I love our Metro compared to every other subway system I've been on (about a dozen). Our basic getting from point A to point B problem has gotten much easier to cope with over time, as the above-ground city has basically redesigned itself to fit on top of the Metro system. People find a job and a place to go out and drink/do stuff, and then they pick a place to live on a Metro line of whatever color connects those two places. In response, developers have built virtually all of the new places to work, live, and do stuff are built within walking distance of a Metro stop.

In addition, the city has begun to add color coded bus routes that run every 5-10 minutes along short, badly needed routes. The blue bus runs the circuit from Rosslyn to Dupont and from GWU to Georgetown. The red bus runs across downtown from Georgetown to Union Station (hitting most of the hot spots in-between), and a less useful route from the new convention center to the SW waterfront. Taken together, the blue and red busses, along with the old, sometimes helpful but mind bogglingly complex, counter-intuitive, and always late-running metrobus system, getting around the city is getting much better.

Having said that, I have an odd feeling that the Metro gods will smite me with a 45 minute delay on the Orange line when I go commute to work tomorrow, most likely because of single tracking or an electrical problem, or a clan war between the malfunctioning elevators and escalators or some such, simply to make my praise for the system ironic.


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