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Help me get out of DC environs (but still commute to UMD)
June 22, 2012 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm having trouble mashing up neighborhood recommendations, apartment listings, and public transportation maps. Could you advise me on places to rent way outside of the main University of Maryland campus/DC area (e.g. no Silver Spring!) that still let me commute into campus via less than 2 hour public transportation?

I've read this question and this question about where to live close to the UMD campus and DC area, but after living the best answers to that question for four years (apartments in various MD towns including and around College Park and Silver Spring), I'm ready to move somewhere a little more safe, quite, and walkable outside the main DC circle. Rural Virginia on the train line? Small town Maryland up north? These places interest me, but I'm having trouble mashing up neighborhood recommendations, apartment listings, and public transportation maps and would appreciate any help you can give.

My toughest requirement is public transportation that gets me from home to campus and back for a 9-5ish block of time (MARC, Amtrak, metro, bus lines...?). I'm at the point where I only need to get to campus once or twice every 1-2 weeks, plus I am unwilling to drive through the DC rush hour mess, so I'd appreciate recommendations for specific towns/neighborhoods that would accommodate this (e.g. on an Amtrak stop into DC). Note that anything that connects via public transport into DC should be good, since DC connects via metro and shuttle to the UMD campus, but I'd be happy for suggestions that don't go through DC as well. The commute can be pretty brutal if it's for a good place to live, since I only need to do it at most twice a week.

I'm totally okay with having to sit on a train for up to two hours to get to campus (I've even considered taking the Amtrak in from Charlottesville, though that seems extreme?).

I don't mind needing to bike, take a short bus trip, or drive/motorbike to the station that will connect my new apartment back to campus if I need to.

I don't care if the town is boring; I do care that it feels safe and quiet. Less expensive is nice, but I'm realistic about the area's cost of living, yet willing to stretch my researcher's salary to live in a place where I can leave the windows open while I sleep and walk to the grocery store (I understand that I can do this in some places closer to UMD, but I live alone and want to feel that I'm safe).

Note that I'm looking to rent, not buy. Thank you for any advice!
posted by pavane to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
What is your actual budget? Also, are you looking for a studio/1BR to live in alone, or are you willing to live with roommates?
posted by decathecting at 8:21 AM on June 22, 2012


Good questions!
Budget = $1500/month or less
Looking to live alone. Apartment size isn't an issue.
posted by pavane at 8:43 AM on June 22, 2012


I'd look out on the Brunswick Line of the MARC train, probably not much closer in than Frederick County. The town of Brunswick is listed as one of Maryland's safest, for what it's worth.
posted by argonauta at 8:50 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frederick MD. Not too far, pretty cool, great walkable downtown, cheap, on a major train line. Marc to Union Station, US to College park probably takes about 2 hours each way, but it's a nice ride. (Or it's about a 1.5 hour drive).

Or, heck, if money is not an objection and you want a safe, quiet, walkable neighborhood with lots of family activities move downtown to Capital Hill! It's the best, and being right next to union station is a lot more convenient for public transport.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:14 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a free (paid for by your student fees) campus shuttle to Burtonsville, MD.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:28 AM on June 22, 2012


I can't comment on specific neighborhoods, but I would caution against always relaying on Amtrak in order to get to campus. I love Amtrak for a lot of one-off things, but be aware that you should be okay with planning around delays of up to two hours if there's a really important campus meeting. On the plus side, Amtrak's points are easy to collect and save up (I have the Amtrak credit card), there are frequent trains, it's really easy to reschedule, etc. The downside is that depending on the time and season, it can be really expensive and also subject to delays on the Northeast corridor lines.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:14 AM on June 22, 2012


There is a free (paid for by your student fees) campus shuttle to Burtonsville, MD

Since it sounds like the OP wants small-town quiet and leave-your-first-floor-windows-open-at-night levels of safety, I don't think Burtonsville is a good idea.

It sounds like what the OP wants is someone with knowledge about the small-town bona fides and crime rates of towns along the MARC and VRE lines. Frederick is actually the second-largest city in Maryland, believe it or not.
posted by deanc at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2012


Since it sounds like the OP wants small-town quiet and leave-your-first-floor-windows-open-at-night levels of safety, I don't think Burtonsville is a good idea.

Burtonsville has a very low crime rate, an unemployment rate of 5%, and a median household income of @$80,000. It also has access to the pautuxet watershed greenbelt. So I'm not sure what would be wrong with it?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:49 AM on June 22, 2012


Does the transport have to be door to door? Would you be willing to drive to a MARC/Amtrak station and leave your car there?
posted by bluefly at 11:42 AM on June 22, 2012


Downtown Fredericksburg, VA is very walkable, including walkable to the train station. It's also a small college town, as we have the University of Mary Washington right here. So plenty of younger people around if that is important to you. It's about 90 minutes on VRE to Union Station, plus the trip on the Yellow or Green line to campus. If you wanted to get really creative and save $300 a month, you could slug (hitchike) into a Metro Station and most days it would be quicker than the train. It's how I get to work in Arlington.

Ping me if you need more info on Fredericksburg.
posted by COD at 11:52 AM on June 22, 2012


Don't forget that Union Station is still nearly an hour from UMD's main campus, ignoring any connecting/transfer times on the other leg of your journey.

Realistically, I don't think that you're going to be able to do what you want to do. If there was an easy way to avoid the DC rush hour commute....while still commuting to DC during rush hour, lots of folks would already be doing it. Plenty of people already drive ridiculous distances to get to DC 5 days a week.

Have you looked at Greenbelt or (Historic) Bowie? They're both close-ish to College Park, and offer a much more secluded ambiance than much of the rest of the DC area. It's not going to be the idyllic small town that you're looking for, but I'm not really sure that that's even an option.
posted by schmod at 1:12 PM on June 25, 2012


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