DCMetro Commute Filter: Stuck in the middle with you
June 17, 2010 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Where can my husband and I live between Dupont Circle and Ft. Meade, MD, so we both have equal commutes?

My husband and I will be moving to the DC Metro area at the end of the summer to start new jobs. I’ll be working downtown, a couple of blocks south of Dupont Circle, and commuting by Metro. He’ll be working at Ft. Meade and will be driving. We’re now embroiled in the search for housing and are addressing the “commute problem.”

The biggest question I have is whether there’s a true “reverse commute” from just inside the Beltway going north on 95 or 295. I’ve been looking at housing in the University Park/College Park/Berwyn Heights area but I don’t have any real idea of how long it will take my husband to drive to Ft. Meade from those areas. Also, if we live in that area, will my Metro commute be longer or worse than his? (I’m OK with my commute taking a little longer, since I won’t have to drive, but we’d rather be leaving and arriving home at about the same time each day.) Should I be looking at other neighborhoods/communities?

Details that might be relevant to your answers: We are looking to rent a house or a townhouse with a yard; we have a small dog; we don’t have kids yet so we’re not concerned with schools; our budget seems to be right in line with housing costs in the areas I’ve mentioned (and let’s assume budget isn’t an issue for the sake of this qusetion – I’m really more interested in figuring out commute times).
posted by devinemissk to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This doesn't answer your question, but have you considered just having one person eat the entirety of the commute? If someone has a greater tolerance for it or one has a more demanding job or a serious love of NPR or something along those lines, it might ultimately make both of your lives easier to have one commuter in the family rather than two, permitting the other greater freedom to take care of domestic chores/tasks/errands/etc. I totally get the drive for egalitarianism in relationships, but sometimes it ends up being a race to the bottom for both parties rather than a utopian dream.
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:50 AM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

I might recommend looking at silver spring. You wouldn't have a bad Metro ride, and you wouldn't have to switch lines. (They're both on the red line). I think your ride would be between 20 and 25 minutes, looking at the WMATA trip planner. His commute would probably be longer (closer to 30 min), but I'd think that he'd be going sort of against the worst of the rush hour. I have less expertise on that, though, so you'd need to get other info.
posted by mercredi at 8:56 AM on June 17, 2010

Also, I think Silver Spring has better community, restaurants, and shopping, than some of the other beltway communities.
posted by mercredi at 8:57 AM on June 17, 2010

I would do College Park, Berwyn Heights or the nicer parts of Hyattsville. Silver Spring would be a good option, too. Decently close in and either a Red Line commute or Green/Red Line commute.
posted by waylaid at 8:57 AM on June 17, 2010

A commute from college park to Dupont is almost the entire length of the red line, you're looking at 30-40mins train time, assuming no delays. Red is by far the most crowded and, speaking anedotely, has the most delays. Plan on at least 1 day a month something will go wrong on the track and push your time to 60-90mins. As far as a reverse drive, traffic might be less going the "wrong" way, but not substantially. The whole metro area is a morass of commuters in all directions, plenty of people go from DC to Baltimore. So "reverse commute" is more of a matter of scale, there will still be plenty of traffic.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:59 AM on June 17, 2010

Scratch that, I forget College Park is on green, the line change probably adds 10mins. I'd second looking in Silver Spring.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:00 AM on June 17, 2010

What about further east? I can just as easily take the Orange or Blue line in, to Farragut West (my new office is basically right between the Farragut North/West and Dupont Circle). I know much less about the communities on the east side of DC, except that people seem not to recommend them. Are there any decent communities in that area? It seems like New Carrollton, for instance, would be just as easy a driving commute for my husband as College Park, but I hear dodgy things about it.

My only concern with Silver Spring is that half the driving commute is on the Beltway -- are those few miles going east going to be horrible? He doesn't mind a longer drive, distance-wise, as much as he minds gridlock. (So, better to go 40 miles in 40 minutes than 5 miles in 40 minutes.)
posted by devinemissk at 9:28 AM on June 17, 2010

I lived in old Greenbelt and commuted to Fort Meade. It was a pretty short drive and against traffic. I can attest that there is a reverse commute on 295. It was about thirty minutes door to door. I am sure it helped that I got on 295 and headed north while avoiding the Beltway.
My partner at the time commuted to Howard University by car, but at odd hours. It took her about an hour.
We often went to the Dupont Circle area, but it was against traffic. We would take the Green Line down. If it was a pretty day, I would get off at U Street and walk over to Dupont from there, but otherwise change to the Red Line at Metro Center. The whole ride (in the evenings or on weekends) took about an hour, if memory serves, and probably extra time for the walk.

But, yes, the answer is yes. It is easier to commute to Fort Meade from DC against traffic. On 295 there is an appreciable difference, and I think the same is true for 95. I would take 295 anyway, because it's a prettier drive. I lived in Baltimore and Laurel as well, and my easiest commute to Fort Meade was from Greenbelt.
posted by aabbbiee at 9:34 AM on June 17, 2010

Might I suggest you also pose this question on the DC and/or MD forums over at City-Data? Folks over there are quite knowledgeable about the details of particular commutes.
posted by somanyamys at 9:38 AM on June 17, 2010

I'd say Takoma Park.
posted by jgirl at 9:46 AM on June 17, 2010

I would be looking inside the DC city limits, or at an immediatelyadjacent Maryland community (e.g. Takoma, Silver Spring) with Metro access. If you get any further out than that, the commute into DC gets much worse than the "reverse" commute to Fort Meade.

The optimal commute trade-off is probably somewhere in the vicinity of the New York Avenue Metro station: easy-on to the BW Parkway for the Fort Meade trip, and an easy Metro Ride to Dupont. But that neighborhood is abysmal, crime-wise -- a no-go unless you are into serious urban pioneering.

The next most optimal sweet-spot for you would probably be near Brookland Metro: slightly longer commute Metro ride into Dupont, and more circuitous route onto the BW Parkway, but a substantially safer neighborhood (albeit a quiet, residential one).

Even less optimal/equal, but perhaps worth looking at for a more vibrant neighborhood, would be the Columbia Heights neighborhood: you'd be looking at a bus commute (or 20/30-minute walk) into Dupont, and an awkward 60/90-minute drive via Georgia Avenue-495-95 to Fort Meade, but you'd be in one of the city's major restaurant/nightlife/retail corridors.

There's another locus of equi-temporal commutes near the Takoma, Fort Totten, and Silver Spring metro stations but, especially at Silver Spring, finding a house with a yard that's within a tolerable daily walk of the Metro station might be a challenge.

You could look at Petworth or Brightwood, but the commute into Dupont is going to involve multiple buses fighting rush-hour traffic. It might meet your equality criterion, but each of you might quickly start to loathe the self-inflicted inefficiency of your respective commutes, and though the neighborhoods are 'OK', they're not exactly magnets: no retail, and a merely embryonic restaurant scene.

The eastern reaches of the Orange/Blue line don't seem to be in particularly safe and walkable neighborhoods, but my knowledge of that part of PG County is extremely limited.
posted by Dimpy at 9:53 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Takoma Park or Silver Spring inside the Beltway. The Beltway eastbound in the AM is never a problem; westbound in the afternoon can get slow but it's not terrible.
posted by ChuqD at 10:15 AM on June 17, 2010

I second (third? fourth?) the recommendation for Silver Spring. At one time, I thought I was going to be commuting from inside the Beltway to a job in Baltimore, so I was looking at apartments in the Takoma Park/Silver Spring area.

One particularly good place I found was Falkland Chase - it's a fairly sprawling apartment complex, roughly a ten-fifteen minute walk from the metro station. The units are large and reasonably priced, the grounds have lots of trees and little paths - place feels a lot like a college campus, actually. And at least some of the two-bedroom units have yards - I have friends living there.

If I were living in Silver Spring, this would be my first choice. http://www.homeproperties.com/apartments/apartment-details.asp?PropertyId=331

Note, though, that it's on the *opposite* side of the Metro station from most of downtown Silver Spring. You may get to the metro station in a ten-minute walk, but I wouldn't count on walking downtown in less than fifteen-twenty minutes.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 10:16 AM on June 17, 2010

Oh - one neat thing about Silver Spring which hasn't been mentioned: It has excellent bus service to Columbia Heights/Mt. Pleasant in DC. It's probably easier/faster to take the bus to Columbia Heights and walk to the Adams Morgan or U Street nightlife strips than it is to take metrorail. In any event, it's a pleasant walk when the weather's good.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 10:19 AM on June 17, 2010

Thanks for all the excellent answers, everyone. Though I'd been really concentrating on the Greenbelt/College Park area, I'll open my search up to Takoma and Silver Spring.
posted by devinemissk at 11:01 AM on June 17, 2010

I commuted from Capitol Hill to downtown Baltimore for a year. The traffic on 295 moved well, most of the time, but there was plenty of traffic at the beginning and end of the trip. Once a week or so, there would be an accident or bad weather or some other problem, and 20 minutes or so would be added to the trip. On average, I would arrive in my office about an hour and 15 minutes after I left my apartment.

A further note: people tell themselves lies about their commute. They'll say "30 minutes," and actually it means that one time, during the summer when everyone's on vacation, it took them 30 minutes on the big roads, and they're subtracting everything else (door to car, time on small roads, parking in garage, car to office). Try it yourself, during the time you'll actually be commuting, and if it's summer, remember that traffic is much, much lighter than it will be at any other time.
posted by palliser at 1:18 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, forgot to mention: my commute was on 295, which is why it's relevant!
posted by palliser at 1:19 PM on June 17, 2010


Thanks for all the advice here!

After a thorough search, we ended up renting a house in Takoma Park. My husband's commute will be about 35 minutes by car and mine will be about 40 by public transit, with a 7-minute bus ride or a mile-and-a-half bike ride to the Takoma station to catch the Red Line to Farragut North.

For those who are curious, my husband tested his inbound, evening commute, leaving the Arundel Mills area (so a little further north than where he'll be working) at about 5:30 and arriving at our new place by 6:05. He said he was driving at a steady 35-40 mph clip all the way in. He also said the westbound Beltway traffic got vile right after he exited -- I think at New Hampshire -- so it seems that the reverse commute does exist, as long as you don't live too far west! Let's hope his experience was the norm and not a summer fluke, of course.

So, again, thanks! I had worried that the Silver Spring/Takoma Park area was too far west for my husband's driving commute, but he certainly didn't think so and said he found the drive very easy. It's also certainly easier for me, since I'll be taking the Red Line in and won't have to mess with a transfer.
posted by devinemissk at 1:52 PM on July 7, 2010

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