Where can we live to commute to DC and Baltimore?
August 6, 2010 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Where could we live in the DC area with 1 commuting to Baltimore and the other (with toddler in tow to daycare) to Foggy Bottom?

This is us. We want a place where we can easily commute (Foggy Bottom parent with an easier commute) by public transit, walk to groceries, have stuff to do. Eventually we'd like good schools.

Where should we live temporarily (with pets) while we look for something more permanent and where should we look in the long-term?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We are doing this. Except one of us works in Dupont Circle and the other at Fort Meade (so not all the way to Baltimore). We are living in Takoma Park so I have a Metro commute into town and he has a driving commute (against traffic, mostly) out to Fort Meade.

I'm not actually there yet, but my spouse tells me our neighborhood is relatively walkable and I know the schools are good.

For more walkability, I'd suggest maybe Silver Spring, though -- you'll have better luck walking to the grocery store and there is more to do in Silver Spring.

Others will probably chime in and suggest other alternatives -- you could live in Capitol Hill near Union Station and the Baltimore spouse takes the Marc/Amtrak and you take Metro (with a transfer) to Foggy Bottom -- and that's not a bad idea for now, but the public schools in DC proper are really not good.

You could also live further out, in, say, Laurel, but you'd have a Marc-to-Metro commute to Foggy Bottom which, frankly, sounds awful, especially with a toddler in tow.

College Park/Hyattsville/University Park is another possible option -- walkability is good, but crime is a little higher and the schools are not great, though better than they have been in the past.
posted by devinemissk at 9:22 AM on August 6, 2010

You could do it from Columbia in Howard County.
posted by spaltavian at 9:26 AM on August 6, 2010

Oh, and you can throw out almost all of the answers to your previous question -- anything in Virginia is going to be horrible for the Baltimore commuter. You need to live either in Maryland or on the northeast side of DC.
posted by devinemissk at 9:27 AM on August 6, 2010

(Last comment for now: previously)
posted by devinemissk at 9:29 AM on August 6, 2010

I'd suggest Columbia MD, great bus services to DC, Great schools, easy commute to Baltimore... further, you can look into the places around Arundel Mills, lots of condo's easy train to DC, and train/light rail to Baltimore.
posted by fozzie33 at 9:45 AM on August 6, 2010

From previous question:
Work and daycare will be at Foggy Bottom. I want to minimize time spent in-transit with the toddler.

I'd guess a maximum of a 1/2 hour commute would be the most anyone could handle with a toddler?
posted by k8t at 9:47 AM on August 6, 2010

posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:49 AM on August 6, 2010

Check out the Gold Coast / Crestwood neighborhood of DC or the equivalent in Silver Spring (above Walter Reed Hospital). You may also find good housing and schools in Mount Ranier and Brentwood, MD.
posted by parmanparman at 9:49 AM on August 6, 2010

I have commuted from DC to Baltimore (although I do not now), and I currently commute in DC via public transport. (I've recently been frequently commuting to Foggy Bottom via subway. I change trains once, it takes me under half an hour.) I would second Takoma Park, where I live. It's a short hop to the Beltway and there's a subway station. I know several people who commute to Baltimore via train from Takoma Park. The schools are very good. There are many walkable neighborhoods bordering the area.

Columbia is much more a traditional suburb, designed much more for cars.
posted by OmieWise at 9:51 AM on August 6, 2010

Takoma Park is going to be pretty hellish for the Baltimore commuter.
posted by spaltavian at 9:54 AM on August 6, 2010

My only thoughts regarding Columbia are the walkability to stuff... while there are lots of trails and connections to roads and stores, it's not really an area where you'll be walking to the grocery store or coffee shop.... although there are some areas that are better for it than others, just within Columbia. Although, there is plenty to do.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 9:59 AM on August 6, 2010

Just chipping in to say that, depending on where in Foggy Bottom you're going, Farragut North and Dupont Circle (both Red Line stops) might be acceptable alternatives to transferring to Orange/Blue to get off at the Foggy Bottom stop. This would be helpful if, for instance, you decide to live within walking distance of Union Station, as you could take the Red Line to NW, and spouse could take MARC to Baltimore. It could free you up to live somewhere on the Red Line north of Union Station.

I say this because transferring sucks. Metro Center, Chinatown, and L'Enfant are swarming with people, it's usually hot, and it's impossible to get a seat on the train if you're getting on there. Probably not much fun for a toddler or a parent trying to cart him/her around (or anyone in the train if the toddler starts crying).

Also, I'm a pet owner in DC. Taking dogs out of an apartment building isn't fun, and if you have dogs who bark whenever they hear a noise, get ready for lots of barking. We moved to a house over a year ago and it's so much better than having to leash the dogs up, take them on an elevator, then walk them around in a commercialish area (we lived in south Dupont) where the tree boxes are all gated off and there's no vegetation. Residential areas like Cap Hill or upper Northeast offer better pet and yard opportunities.
posted by jalexc at 9:59 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Columbia is not going to work. I'm frankly a little surprised at people suggesting it as an "eas[y] commute (Foggy Bottom parent with an easier commute) by public transit." There's a lot to do in Columbia, sure, but it's pretty far from Foggy Bottom -- and you need a car there.

I question the assertion that Takoma Park is going to be hellish for the Baltimore commuter. My husband drives from Takoma Park daily to Fort Meade and it takes him 25 minutes with very little traffic. (He runs into a little more traffic on the Beltway in the afternoons than in the mornings, but it's not bad -- nothing like, say, taking the Beltway to Tyson's Corner or anything. Shudder.) There will be traffic as you get closer to Baltimore, though.

It's not totally clear that the Baltimore spouse will be driving -- if not, be sure to take a look at the available commutes into Baltimore by MARC.
posted by devinemissk at 10:10 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, and I have no financial stake in this: It's 100 ft. from Ft. Bunker Hill Park, a block from the Franciscan Monastery, two and a half blocks from Yes!, four blocks from the red line (with brand new sidewalks the whole way), 30 minutes to Foggy Bottom (including the walk to the metro and from Foggy Bottom to the office), it's cute, has twoand a half baths, tree bedrooms, central air, a yard, its near houses with other toddlers (with an active neighborhood parent community) for $2700 a month.

posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:26 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Takoma Park is going to be pretty hellish for the Baltimore commuter.

I don't know. I commuted for two years to Baltimore by car from Mount Pleasant, and it wasn't too bad. It took an hour each way door to door, and most of that time was inside DC. Takoma Park is much closer to the Beltway, and almost all of the driving would be highway driving going against traffic. I would guess that it would take under an hour.

Something has to give here, though, as the two work locations are ~40 miles apart. There are other suburbs more in the middle (like Laurel or Columbia), but the further from DC you get the more the toddler traveling to Foggy Bottom is going to feel it.
posted by OmieWise at 10:28 AM on August 6, 2010

Literally just sent the movers on their way from our new place in Wheaton. Easy access to 495 and many places available that are walkable to the Metro - ours is about a .5 mile walk but we can take a bus down Georgia or Veirs Mill if we want to get there quicker.

Maybe still not ideal for a Foggy Bottom commute but we couldn't be more excited about living here for many of the reasons you mention. We did just move from closer to downtown Silver Spring - same ideas, just becoming leads affordable - especially ($$$) close to the metro.

Good luck!
posted by atayah at 10:31 AM on August 6, 2010

I've been hearing good things about Cheverly--closer to the Baltimore commute routes for her, no-transfer Metro station for you.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:57 AM on August 6, 2010

I came in to suggest Takoma Park, but I see that I've already been soundly beaten to the punch! So I'll nth it. It's geographically further to Baltimore than to Foggy Bottom, but at least part of the commute in that direction will be against the grain and hence easier. It's super crunchy-granola, and many parts are walkable to both TP's small downtown and Silver Spring's much larger downtown. The public schools are good, it's extremely young-family friendly, and there's a strong sense of community.

An alternative would be "close-in" Silver Spring itself, in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown. Part of the problem with finding housing in Silver Spring is that it's a massive unincorporated area that can take 30 minutes to drive across, with much variability in terms of neighborhoods, walkability (mostly "not very", with certain exceptions), quality of primary schools, etc. A good local realtor can help you sort this out.
posted by drlith at 11:11 AM on August 6, 2010

Oh, yes, when I said "Silver Spring" I meant "close in Silver Spring" -- if you're going to do that, you want to be inside the Beltway and ideally within good walking distance of the Metro station. And drlith is right that a good realtor can really help you here, even while you're just looking to rent.
posted by devinemissk at 11:46 AM on August 6, 2010

I commute from Baltimore to DC by MARC every day. What kills a commute is transferring. My commute time is doubled most days because I need a 20 min. bus ride to and from the MARC station and the timing is just bad. An hour by MARC is a piece of cake - I sleep, read, do e-mail, whatever. If you have to take two Metro lines to get to a MARC station, it is going to suck.

Camden line is slower than the Penn line to start with, and has stricter heat restrictions. If you can stay on the Penn line, the commute will be easier for the Baltimore person. That implies Capitol Hill, Seabrook, New Carrollton, etc. I don't know how getting to Foggy Bottom would be from those or what they are like to live in (except that Capitol Hill is a very pleasant neighbourhood to walk around on my lunch break).
posted by QIbHom at 12:47 PM on August 6, 2010

Forget Virginia. Getting from, say, Leesburg, across the Potomac into Maryland requires driving into D.C. or halfway to West Virginia.
posted by justcorbly at 4:03 PM on August 6, 2010

There will probably be a lot of people who disagree with this, and I admit this is highly dependent on what you consider a hellish commute (hour and fifteen minutes?), AND consider this info is five years old (I've since moved out of the DC area), but Alexandria, VA might be an option if you - it's a very easy metro ride to foggy bottom (I worked in Georgetown and Foggy Bottom), and the east side of the beltway is relatively clear during rush hour if the Baltimore commuter is willing to drive (while I didn't commute all the way to Baltimore every day, I also worked in Largo, MD for a while, and also went to Baltimore quite a bit). You might want to test this hypothesis by actually driving from Alexandria to Baltimore (via the Beltway) during rush hour, but it's something to consider if you want to keep Virginia in the mix (obviously there are better choices. Even better, have you considered living in Baltimore and taking MARC/metro to DC? It is cheaper, and I like it better than DC.
posted by drobot at 4:52 PM on August 6, 2010

I was thinking about this again.

This really boils down to the familiar tripartite issue of fast, cheap, good: pick two. In this case the three issues are easy commute, cheap living, good schools and other amenities. You haven't said anything about what your price range is, nor which are truly the most important for you, but regardless, I can say a couple of things about those three issues.

Cheverly and other places in PG County are nice, and they meet the commuting-ease test, and they are cheaper places to live than Takoma Park or DC proper, but the schools are not as good as they are in Montgomery County (Silver Spring or Takoma Park). DC, say somewhere near Union Station (for train commuting), is very nice, and has all the other amenities, but lacks good schools. However, with a bunch of money you could send your kid to private school and not have to worry. Silver Spring is cheaper than Takoma Park, although I'm not sure how good all the various schools are. Montgomery County schools in general are quite good. The relative affordability of Silver Spring might be undone by your desire to live within walking distance of amenities. Wheaton has great restaurants and can be quite nice, but is further out for the person communting to Foggy Bottom. Takoma Park is, as stated above, good for most of the things you seem to want, but housing is more expensive in general (although by no means outrageous for the area).

I guess what I'm suggesting is that, as you probably suspect, this is a complex question.

I would be happy to show you around Takoma Park, Silver Spring, and/or Northwest DC. You can MeFi Mail me if you like.
posted by OmieWise at 8:05 AM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

One other thing that I'll mention regarding the commute to Foggy Bottom -- Montgomery County has a bus line that basically goes through the various neighborhoods and between Metro and MARC stations. (It's called the Ride On bus and it is just that -- a bus line that you take to "ride on" to the train.) So if you find a place that is a little too far to walk to the station (as we did -- our place is about a mile and a half from the Takoma station, really too far to walk), you can take the bus. I've been told the Ride On is pretty reliable.

While we were still searching for housing, I did not see anything similar in the Prince George County neighborhoods we were considering (College Park, Berwyn, University Park). There are buses, but they are not necessarily conveniently routed to get people from their homes to the metro. So in those places, I'd've had to drive to a station with a park-and-ride -- and some of those have rather steep parking fees. (We also don't have a second car, so that wasn't really an option, though we considered getting a second car if necessary.)

Now, ideally, you'd live very close to Metro in either county. But, as OmieWise suggests, you will pay more to do so -- or you'll risk being in a slightly dodgy neighborhood, depending on the station. Or, if you do have a car or bus transfer, it will add time to your commute -- there's that tradeoff between fast, cheap, and good.

Anyway, just something to consider.
posted by devinemissk at 10:03 AM on August 7, 2010


University Park does have a free bus that rides all throughout the neighborhood and will take you to and from the closest green line metro stop.

That said, I think some of the other neighborhood suggestions might be a better fit for OP, despite UP being a really nice convenient neighborhood with good schools.
posted by vegetableagony at 10:35 AM on August 9, 2010

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