Park and Ride in From PA to DC
September 10, 2009 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out a Park and Ride scenario during rush hour PA -> DC.

I'm trying to figure out the best way to minimize driving between Harrisburg, PA and Washington DC during evening rush hour on a Friday afternoon. I have a car, but I'm headed to downtown DC and it would be far better/cheaper/happier if I can park and use public transit.

Both Greyhound and Amtrak from Harrisburg to DC are four hours (ouch) and Amtrak conveniently takes me through Philadelphia (huh?). So I'm looking at Marc trains, which would be a little more driving, but it looks like there are park and ride options.

But where do I go? Looks like the closest places to me are: Monocacy on the Brunswick line and West Baltimore on the Penn Line. Maybe Penn Station on the Penn Line as well (Actually Hunt Mills, Timonium and Owing Mills are closer but there's no park and ride).

But I'm wondering if it's better to go to Monocacy because there might be less traffic in getting there (avoiding Baltimore entirely) but am I wrong? What would you do?

Presumably since I'd be getting there around the evening rush hour I wouldn't have a problem finding a park and ride parking space right??? Right?

Any other ideas/suggestions that might work? I've heard there are faster buses between DC and Harrisburg but I have no idea where they might be found.
posted by mulkey to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Take 15 South to Frederick, then 270 to Shandy Grove or Germantown to catch Metro into DC? The Marc trains to DC are commuter lines. At PM rush hour, they are only running away from DC.
posted by COD at 10:15 AM on September 10, 2009

That should Shady Grove...
posted by COD at 10:16 AM on September 10, 2009

You're commuting against the grain, so parking shouldn't be a problem. West Balt. or Penn sound like solid choices. (Penn is paid underground parking, I *think* West Balt. is free, but unmonitored)

You might want to look at Bolt Bus, some of which stop at Penn station.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:16 AM on September 10, 2009

There is lots of parking at the Owings Mills Metro station...

have you looked at Rabbit Transit's Bus transit from York to MTA station in Hunt Valley, MD?

from there you can get the Light Rail and keep heading south...

They also have a Harrisburg to York line, but I don't know how well you'd be able to make a connection on to York to MD route.
posted by jrishel at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2009

If I remember correctly the Penn Line runs in both directions all day, although it's been a while since I had any reason to know this stuff. Check the schedules. Even if it does, though, it's probably pretty infrequent. I'd drive a little further and take the Metro, which runs more frequently and later into the night.

Google Maps from Harrisburg to DC has you taking 83 to Baltimore, then the Baltimore-Washington Parkway) if you assume it knows what it's doing, then Greenbelt or New Carrollton might also be suitable places to park. I'd check the Metro web site for parking information -- I'm not sure if the big park-and-ride stations are at the termini. But the western route (15 to 270) is only marginally slower on Google Maps and avoids Baltimore traffic.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:21 AM on September 10, 2009

It looks like Greyhound is your best option at just under three hours - I'm not sure where the 4 hours comes from, I recall Greyhound schedules are pretty accurate. They *advertise* WiFi availability, and as COD says, MARC won't go south in the evening. Unfortunately Greyhound routes through Baltimore, so that costs you time.
posted by nj_subgenius at 10:39 AM on September 10, 2009

You could do Hunt Valley light rail to Penn Station. The light rail is pretty slow once you're in downtown proper, but prior to that it's pretty speedy (~45 minutes from Hunt Valley to Penn Station). However, from what I understand, 83 south traffic north of the MD/PA line is pretty bad in the morning, unless you're on the road early.

Frederick is also an option, but since the travel time (Harrisburg->Baltimore, Harrisburg ->Frederick) is about the same (~1.5 hours), you come out ahead because the MARC from Baltimore->DC takes about a half hour less. Hunt Valley is slightly quicker at about an hour.


Harrisburg->Frederick->DC = 1.5 hr +1.5 hr = 3 hours
Harrisburg->Baltimore->DC = 1.5 hr +1 hr = 2.5 hours
Harrisburg -> Hunt Valley -> Baltimore -> DC = 1 hr + .75 hr + 1 hr = 2.75 hrs

The advantage of the Hunt Valley route is that there's slightly less driving, and you avoid 83 southbound traffic inside the beltway, which can be pretty bad.
posted by electroboy at 11:04 AM on September 10, 2009

The MARC Penn Line does run both ways all day (Brunswick doesn't) during the week only - no weekend service. Definitely check the schedule - frequency had been picking up a bit from a few years ago, but some trains got dropped within the past year or so, and they've started extending holiday closures.

If you were to park at Owings Mills Metro (mentioned upthread) the walk to Penn Station from State Center Metro stop is a bit of a hike - not awful, but I'd probably allow myself at least 20 minutes so I wouldn't have to run for the train, and I'm not slow walker. On the Light Rail, there are park-and-ride stops outside the beltway at Warren Road, Timonium Fairgrounds, and Lutherville in addition to Hunt Valley. You'll have to either connect to the Penn Station-bound light rail at Mount Royal, or walk from the stop to Penn Station (shorter distance than on the Metro, but Metro trains travel faster than the Light Rail - about 20 minutes from Owings Mills to State Center).

The Greenbelt Metro has lots of paid parking, and DC's public transit system is generally quite a bit less frustrating than Baltimore's, so I think COD's suggestion is worth considering. But the Greyhound might be your best bet - even if it's a long trip, minimizing your transfers will reduce commuting stress considerably. If cost isn't a concern, though, Amtrak is far and away the most comfortable option, despite the weird route through Philly.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:43 AM on September 10, 2009

I've taken this Greyhound route at least 15 times.

Pros: Greyhound in DC and Harrisburg are right downtown, plenty of public transit access on both ends. My trip averages out at 3.25 hrs, and $66 roundtrip if you buy 14 days in advance. No transfers, straight through.

Cons: You will not get a new bus or WiFi. If you know Greyhound, you have a general idea. Get there 30 min. early.

Any other questions, feel free to MeMail.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:05 PM on September 10, 2009

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