A guide to D.C. public transportation for freshmen

Media Credit: Alexander Welling | Assistant Photo Editor

Take the Metrorail to travel to some of D.C.'s most popular destinations, like the U.S. Capitol.

From shopping in Georgetown to sight-seeing, the District offers plenty of opportunities to explore – but they all come with a transportation fee.

There are multiple transportation options to navigate D.C., including the Metro and Circulator, but deciding on the most efficient mode can be confusing if you’re not used to city living. The Metro could look like a jumble of lines at first, and you may resort to relatively expensive Uber or Lyft rides. To avoid the hefty travel costs, sift through some of the most efficient ways to land on popular D.C. destinations without breaking the bank.

Best way to get to the U.S. Capitol: Metrorail

The Metrorail, a division of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, is one of the most common public transportation systems in the District.

With a stop conveniently located on campus next to the GW Hospital, the Metro is the best method for traveling to D.C. landmarks like the U.S. Capitol Building in Southeast D.C., the National Portrait Gallery in Chinatown or the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Penn Quarter.

If you’re looking to head to the U.S. Capitol or other monuments, hop on the blue, orange or silver lines toward Largo Town Center, stay on the train for seven stops – about 20 minutes – and walk off at the Capitol South station. Then, plug the Capitol Building into your map, and the destination should be about a 10-minute walk away.

While there are downsides to the service like delays and up-charges during rush hour, the Metro will still help you avoid car traffic and cut down on the cost of travel for your weekend touring excursions. Riders are required to purchase a SmarTrip card from a Metro station to access the trains.

$2 per ride during off-peak hours, $2.25 per ride during peak hours (from opening to 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays)

Best way to get to Georgetown: D.C. Circulator

The Circulator is a lesser-known bus system that, as its name implies, circulates through the District. The Circulator is currently free of charge.

To travel to Georgetown from campus, climb aboard the Circulator on the cross streets of Pennsylvania Avenue and 22nd Street heading eastbound toward Georgetown, a roughly 10-minute walk from Thurston Hall. Depending on traffic, your trip will take between 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t worry if you miss the first bus – the Circulator is available every 10 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Hop off the bus at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue NW and M Street and you’ll arrive steps away from popular shops like Urban Outfitters and Lush and eateries like Sprinkles Cupcakes and Baked and Wired.

Free

Best way to get to 14th Street: Metrobus

When the Metrorail doesn’t quite take you far enough, climb aboard the Metrobus to take you the rest of the way.

The Metrobus has several more stops compared to the rail, which can help you find a destination far away from the Metrorail. While there are several Metrobus stops that can cut down on your time walking, the bus often faces delays and experiences loads of D.C. traffic.

To get to 14th Street – the home of several student favorites like Jeni’s Ice Cream, Le Diplomate, Ted’s Bulletin and Busboys and Poets – take the Metrorail on the orange, blue or silver lines two stops to McPherson Square. Then, walk a few feet to the 14th and I streets Metrobus stop and take the 52 bus, also known as the 14th Street line, five stops to 14th and Q Streets.

$2 per ride

Best late-night ride: 4-RIDE

If you want to trek across campus late at night, the University offers a free ride service from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. seven days a week. Whether you need to get from Gelman Library to Thurston Hall after a late-night study session or need a ride back from Crepeaway, 4-RIDE is your best bet.

The service can take you to any on-campus spot, in addition to a few locations on the outskirts of campus, like the monuments and Washington Circle. The off-campus boundaries include 16th Street through 26th Street and M Street through Constitution Avenue.

You can hail a 4-RIDE by calling the 4-RIDE phone number on the back of your GWorld card or online through the myGW Portal at my.gwu.edu. Be patient when you call the service – it is known for lengthy wait times.

Free

Best way to get to Dupont Circle: Scooter

When the weather is pleasant, an affordable way to get around the city is by electric scooter.

Hoards of electric scooters are parked on campus and around the District. To use one, download the app of some of the most common scooter companies like Lime, Bird or Lyft and enter your credit card information. Then, use the app to scan the code on your scooter, and you can start riding. Electric scooters are an environmentally friendly option to travel because they are battery-operated and don’t emit carbon dioxide.

Most scooters are $1 to start and then cost between 10 and 50 cents for every additional minute of the ride. Taking a scooter is your best bet if you want to travel within a one-mile radius of campus without walking. Some safe locations to take your scooter include Philz Coffee or an afternoon at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café in Dupont Circle.

$1 to start, rates increase per minute

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