A 2011 report by the Texas Transportation Institute, which tries to quantify commuter misery nationwide, ranked the Washington region at or near the top in several measures of congestion. We’ve been hovering around the peak for many years, but that doesn’t scare people away. A key reason behind the high ranking is the relative strength of the local economy. Jobs, entertainment and cultural opportunities are magnets for travelers.
2. Are travel conditions uniformly awful?
No. As a region, we look bad, but your travel experience will vary depending on where you chose to work and live. Don’t put unnecessary distance between the two. Don’t let the Potomac or Anacostia rivers come between you and your job. Don’t select a residence that offers only one route to work. Do look for a residence with access to both roads and transit. Do find a neighborhood with sidewalks.
3. What’s the worst thing about commuting in the Washington area?
Washingtonians learn to live with the slow trips. What really drives them nuts is the uncertainty of any given trip. They can’t count on a trip taking the same amount of time today as it did yesterday. There are so many vehicles competing to travel in so few lanes that a minor disruption — a fender bender — can congeal traffic for miles and add serious time to any trip. The farther apart your start and end points, the more buffer time you must build in to avoid being late.
4. What traffic bottlenecks are notorious?
All the Potomac and Anacostia river crossings but particularly the 14th Street bridge. Also bad are Interstate 395, the northern arc of the Capital Beltway between College Park and Silver Spring, the junction of the Beltway and Interstate 270, eastbound Interstate 66 at the Beltway, the eastbound Dulles Toll Road at the Beltway and the Beltway at Telegraph Road.
But those are just the top tier of delay-prone highways. During rush hour, you could be stuck on Rockville Pike, Georgia Avenue, Colesville Road, New York Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, Suitland Parkway, Arlington Boulevard, Washington Boulevard, George Washington Parkway, Chain Bridge Road and Leesburg Pike — to name just a few common trouble spots.
Before settling on a residence, test the commute under weekday conditions.
5. What if I reverse commute?
D.C. commuting used to be about going into the District in the morning and returning to the suburbs at night. Those days are long gone. The 14th Street bridge is jammed in both directions at rush hour because drivers use it not only as a D.C. commuter route, but also for commuters between Maryland and Virginia.