Last week, Washington Post reporters and editors became commuters and raced each other by car and public transportation along several typical commuting routes. Today's report compares commuting by car, car pool, bus and subway along Northern Virginia's heavily traveled Shirley Highway.
I figured it would be a bad rush hour, the kind where you creep a few feet, hit the brakes and then hope that the guy behind you is more awake than you are and won't slam into the rear of your car. But the traffic reporter on WTOP told me: "We're having a very light rush hour. It looks like a lot of people are taking an early Christmas vacation."
The traffic on Shirley Highway confirmed his report. It was fast - about 55 to 60 m.p.h. - and there was plenty of space between cars.
I noticed that even though traffic on the regular Shirley Highway lanes was traveling at the speed limit or better, buses and car pools in the express lanes were going even faster maybe 65 m.p.h. A Virginia state trooper and an Alexandria city policeman watched as they went by.
Traffic in my lanes slowed to 40 m.p.h. near the Shirlington exit. I waved goodbye, to the traffic backup alongside the Pentagon as I took the off ramp to the Pentagon City Metro station and parked just south of the intersection of 15th and Hayes Streets.
I walked a block back to the Metro station, past the field where Atlantic Garage is putting in a parking lot over the muddy turf where Metro riders parked for free last summer before Arlington County officials had a trench dug around the perimeter of the lot.
As I walked into the Metro station, I did what I always do first: check to see whether there was a shadow on the ceiling over the tracks heading into Washington. If there was, it meant there was a train sitting there and I might catch it if I ran. But there, wasn't, so I walked.
Just after getting off the escalator, however, the subway platform lights started blinking signaling that a train was coming. I could have gotten on the train anywhere, but an experienced subway rider knows that, if possible, you get on the train at a specific car and door so that when you get off at your stop you'll be right next to the up escalator. Knowing that I would get off the Vermont Avenue exit at McPherson Square, I got on the last door of the sixth car of the eight-car train.
When the train stopped at McPherson Square, I was eight steps from the escalator and only the third person on the escalator. That meant that I could get through Metro's Farecard machine quicker.
I stepped out onto Vermont Avenue NW. Four minutes later, I was in The Post newsroom.