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January 7, 2011 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Is the drive on 95 to Georgetown in DC a thing to be feared? Any tips for a noob?

Help! I am a really nervous driver when driving someplace new, especially in cities. I have the opportunity to meet a friend in DC in the Georgetown area for shopping, but all I can think is "OMG it's DC! Traffic! Parking! Beltway! Four lanes of 1-95!"

I've driven in Pittsburgh before, but that is the biggest city, and it made me pretty terrified, but I got through it. I have a new car, too, so it is making me nervous that I have something to lose if I would cause an accident. (I had two accidents as a teenager, one from snow and one where I merged into someone. No one was hurt, they were both under $500 damage, but I just have always been a nervous driver, even before the accidents.)

I'm super cautious and know this sounds crazy from a grown-ass adult and realize I'm really a pretty safe driver, just afraid of the unknown.

I'd be coming from about 100 miles south of Richmond traveling on 95. Any tips? Freaking over nothing? Thanks, guys!
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (24 answers total)
Why don't you take the bus, or the train.
posted by TheBones at 5:09 PM on January 7, 2011

TheBones: Ha!

Driving in DC, until you're really practiced at it, is a nightmare.
posted by phrontist at 5:20 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to be king of drivers and accidentally ran a thousand red lights in Georgetown while I lived outside of DC. What are you up to there? Just to spare you some stress, I'd take the metro up from Franconia-Springfield, it's right off of 95. You'll have to walk a bit after you get out of the metro, but it might be best for your sanity.
posted by soma lkzx at 5:23 PM on January 7, 2011

If you don't want to drive in the city but don't want to deal with long-distance trains or buses: park at Franconia-Springfield metro station and take the blue line in. Unfortunately Georgetown is not all that accessible by Metro; you'd have to walk (about a mile) or take a bus from either Foggy Bottom or Rosslyn (both on the orange and blue lines), if I remember correctly. It's been six or seven years since I've been to DC, though, so maybe someone with more recent experience can help out.

Alternatively, if you hate walking, you could probably take a cab from Foggy Bottom; sure it would cost money, but it's still less than you'd pay for parking. If I remember correctly there are weird rules about getting cabs outside of the District to go inside the District, so you wouldn't want to get a cab at Rosslyn, which is in Virginia.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:23 PM on January 7, 2011

I live in LA, and think driving in DC is a piece of cake. Sure, the locals like to carry on about what a nightmare it is, but I don't think it's any big deal. You can probably avoid rush hour, and if you're really worried, put your car in a lot in Alexandria or Arlington and take the Metro into G'town.

But south of Richmond to the Beltway? Unless it's sleeting or there's a hurricane, I'd think you'd be fine. Do you have GPS? If not, get one, and it will tell you if there's a tractor-trailer overturned in the far left lane ahead.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:23 PM on January 7, 2011

I meant to link to this in my original reply: Metro has directions for getting to certain outlying stations from major highways.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:25 PM on January 7, 2011

Take your car to the metro station, park it, and take a train, then a bus.
posted by anniecat at 5:26 PM on January 7, 2011

I don't drive in DC, but if you choose to metro in, you can very easily walk (~10 minutes) to Georgetown from Foggy Bottom. My perspective as a pedestrian is that M St is a mad, mad world for drivers.
posted by quadrilaterals at 5:34 PM on January 7, 2011

Getting into Georgetown from I-95 - coming in from the south - can be both confusing and anxiety-inducing for me too, and I live here! Then there's driving in Georgetown (which is usually crowded, particularly on M Street) and finding parking on top... Now, I have NO doubt that you could figure it out fine, particularly as you would be able to do a Google Street View "drive through" beforehand, but there may be some other options that would let you relax a bit more.

I would probably recommend that you get off 95 and park at Franconia Springfield. Take the Blue Line Metro from there to Foggy Bottom and walk into Georgetown. Alternatively, get off the metro at Rosslyn and take the DC Circulator into Georgetown (or walk across the Key Bridge from Rosslyn into Georgetown, less than 10 minutes to walk).

If you do decide to drive, just take it easy, try not to go during rush hour, be careful, and research the route well so you don't have to keep looking at maps. You should be fine.
posted by gemmy at 5:40 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even for a frequent visitor, DC driving can be annoying because there are unexpected one-way streets that can take you in unexpected directions, and the signage on the major routes is often poor. You would be fine if you can keep a cool head and just be patient and make a big circle if you get off-track, but it might also be stressful. Another problem is parking; it can be really tough to find a spot and you could be circling nervously for a long time, which would be no fun.

To avoid that, it might be better to park at a Metro station in Virginia (one where they have a nice big parking garage) and Metro in, then walk or cab to Georgetown.

An alternative might be to meet your friend somewhere else -- at a meeting place closer to Metro or a place that has a parking garage -- then the two of you could walk/cab to Georgetown together.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:41 PM on January 7, 2011

It'd be helpful if you have a gps, as there are a log of one way streets in Georgetown and it's a pain to turn around if you pass what you need. Also the parking is kind of a nightmare. You'll either pay a buttload for a parking garage or you'll park on a super narrow street that cars can barely pass by on.

That said, it's totally doable. The expressways aren't bad at all of it's not rush hour and there will be plenty of other people driving around aimlessly in Georgetown. Take you time and you'll be fine.

If you're really worried about it though, it's usually $20-25 on Amtrak and there's the circulator bus that runs from Union Station to Georgetown for $1.
posted by havemercy at 5:46 PM on January 7, 2011

And yes - do avoid rush hour if you possibly can. Rush hour traffic in DC is no joke.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:46 PM on January 7, 2011

If I remember correctly there are weird rules about getting cabs outside of the District to go inside the District, so you wouldn't want to get a cab at Rosslyn, which is in Virginia.

Oh, to address this. I take cabs from my office in Rosslyn into the city every now and then (and go back via cab too) and that's never a problem. It's only when you want to go to further out destinations in Virginia (beyond the immediate area surrounding the city) that DC cabs dont' like taking you.
posted by gemmy at 5:50 PM on January 7, 2011

I think the advice to avoid driving in DC is reasonable. Georgetown doesn't have a centrally located metro stop, but its an easy walk, less than a mile.

However, you're going to need to drive up I95, which can really suck. Driving my sister back from VCU once took 5 hours. Its more annoying than nerve-wracking— just standard highway driving, sometimes with high volume.

If you wanted to stop in at Charlottesville*, you could take 64 to 29, which is mostly stop lights through small towns.

Chinatown busses do run from Richmond up if you'd really like to avoid driving at all.

I think you'll be fine. Drive in and stop at Vienna (just off 66) or Franconia-Springfield. Metro in to Dupont Circle, then take the DC Circulator bus towards Roslyn (I think it's $1), or bring a bike helmet and do DC bike share for the day. ($5) A cab will be under $10.

*which, as a Hokie, I could never endorse
posted by fontophilic at 6:06 PM on January 7, 2011

gemmy, thanks for the clarification. I never actually crossed the DC-Virginia border in a cab, so clearly I don't know what I'm talking about.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:07 PM on January 7, 2011

Getting through the Springfield Interchange will probably be the most stressful part. Other than that, it's a pretty straight shot. Start paying close attention to the signs as soon as you pass the Lorton exit, and follow the signs to I-395 north. After that you can just hang out in the right lane for a while and take the Washington Blvd exit to Arlington Blvd (Rt 50) East, and from there into Rosslyn and then Georgetown.

You can park under the Georgetown Park mall and you won't have to worry about any Georgetown parking rules.
posted by wam at 6:13 PM on January 7, 2011

If sudden multi-lane merges spook you, you may not enjoy driving on the Beltway. I learned to drive in Boston and I hate driving on the Beltway because people just dodge from lane to lane without signalling at top speed and I HATE THEM ALL.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:59 PM on January 7, 2011

I hate driving in DC and I go down to georgetown all the time, and it's no big deal, because you can do almost the whole drive and never hit the city.

To save yourself a lot of confusion, use the google maps directions to Rosslyn, VA instead of Georgetown, DC. After you get on to 27, pay very close attention to road signs, because it can get confusing. Just follow the signs that say Rosslyn and you should be okay.

Those google directions will take you to Lynn street in Rosslyn. When you hit lynn street, keep going straight across the bridge, and at the light at the end of the bridge, take a right on M street. You are in Georgetown. (If you want, you can stop at the gas station that's right there and explore around a little bit, and find the 'exorcist steps', where they filmed that scene.)

Driving down M street kind of sucks on a busy day, but it's straight so you won't get lost. Stay in the right lane (but not the one people are parking in obviously). You might get lucky and get street parking on M street, but if you aren't comfortable parallel parking, just skip it.

When you hit Wisconsin Avenue (it's four or five blocks down), make a right and follow it down the hill to water street and make another right. It's not on Google maps because it's directly under Whitehurst freeway. There is a paid parking lot down there and tons of metered spaces. I've never had a hard time parking.

Most of the good clothes shops and food is up near Wisconsin Avenue anyway, and the mall is on Wisconsin avenue as well, so you shouldn't have a long walk to get any where.

When you leave, just go back up Wisconsin, take a left on M and take a left at the bridge. When you get a cross the bridge, turn left on Lee Highway, and go towards 66/50, but stay in the right lane as you get onto the highway. The very first exit is going to be 110 south. Stay on that and follow the signs to 395 SOUTH, and the rest should be easy.
posted by empath at 7:08 PM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

If sudden multi-lane merges spook you, you may not enjoy driving on the Beltway. I learned to drive in Boston and I hate driving on the Beltway because people just dodge from lane to lane without signalling at top speed and I HATE THEM ALL.

Driving to georgetown, you will never be on the beltway. Also, the Mixing Bowl is pretty easy to handle going straight from 95 north to 395 north, since it's pretty much a straight line.
posted by empath at 7:09 PM on January 7, 2011

Seconding empath's directions for entering Georgetown from Rosslyn and for leaving, but I would (respectfully) still recommend taking 27 the other way to Route 50 east (one exit earlier than the suggested google route) for the final leg inbound, for a nervous driver.

This is because I personally find it difficult to both follow the tiny signs and keep track of the merges on 27 going under the memorial bridge and back up onto 50 west, plus the final merge and immediate exit into Rosslyn from that direction can be kind of unpleasant. Of course, by that point you're close enough that you can quickly get back on track. I just find the other way less nerve-wracking.
posted by wam at 8:09 PM on January 7, 2011

That's probably a lot less confusing, and only adds maybe 10 minutes to the trip.
posted by empath at 8:23 PM on January 7, 2011

I've driven from Richmond to DC countless number of times, and have never had any problems. However, I am not at all a jittery driver. Looks like there are already a lot of good suggestions here, so I won't repeat their points. One additional piece of advice would be to pull over before you hit exit 150 to stretch, get something to drink, calm nerves, etc. You could be stuck in traffic beyond that point for quite awhile, so I find it helpful to take a break before.
Also, if it helps, getting back home is infinitely easier. You can follow the grid patterned streets from Georgetown (around M St NW and the 30th St NW) back to 14th St NW. Make a right on 14 St NW, which will take you directly to 395, and straight back to 95 S.
posted by msk1985 at 6:54 AM on January 8, 2011

Franconia-Springfield metro is a great idea, but on weekdays the parking may fill up (anyone know if this is still true at F-S?), in which case you will need a contingency plan.

I find rush hour on 95 to be probably the safest driving ever. (Look, we're not moving... now we're still not moving... wow, I feel really safe!) Give yourself tons of time for the trip and enjoy Virginia's most scenic parking lot.
posted by anaelith at 6:59 AM on January 8, 2011

I say you drive all the way the Georgetown. Parking at the Springfield metro and taking the train in is a pain and will rob you of a driving adventure.

Either park on K street, under the Whitehurst Freeway or take a left off M and look in the neighborhoods. You'll find something.
posted by The Lamplighter at 9:25 AM on January 8, 2011

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