By: Justin La Rocca
For those who don’t know, I am a self-proclaimed transportation wonk. But more importantly, I am a bus wonk. I can find a bus that goes practically anywhere from anywhere. Buses can be tracked on the iPhone using the amazing GPS feature, NextBus. They are never “single tracking”, are cheaper than metro, and most importantly, I get cell service on them!
I work in Silver Spring, MD, which is on the complete opposite side of the red line from where I live, in lovely (and SAFE) Upper Northwest. So riding metro to work would consist of taking a stupid shuttle or walking 15 minutes to the Tenleytown station and then a 45-minute metro ride through D.C.’s less appealing neighborhoods. I knew there had to be a better way to get there, and a cheaper way.
My solution? Buses of course! My bus commute goes a little something like this: hopping on a shuttle bus from my apartment building to the Friendship Heights metro station, where upon arrival I just jump on a Montgomery County Ride-On bus that takes me directly to the ghetto – I mean… Silver Spring. All this for a mere $ 1.70! And for those who are unaware, you can transfer from bus-to-bus within a two-hour window for free using your SmarTrip card. This transfer is also valid on Ride-On and Fairfax connector buses (I am sure it is available on most surrounding county buses that accept SmarTrip cards).
Let’s talk about the actual ride a bit, shall we? My commute typically begins with the shuttle bus. A driver, resembling a transgender female, retrieves me just outside of my apartment. The bus is usually packed until we reach Ward circle (DHS Headquarters), just a block away, so I usually can get a seat.
Friendship Heights is where things get interesting. What is most peculiar about Route 1 (the bus to Silver Spring), is that the route traveled varies depending on the time of day. One route, which I will refer to as the celebrity route, takes you through a hilly section of Chevy Chase that has some of the most gorgeous houses you’ll ever see. I imagine this is what it’s like to drive through the Hollywood Hills. At other times the bus will by-pass the hills and head down Connecticut Avenue then down East-West Highway. Then, there are times when the bus chooses to travel along the ghetto route, through a sketchy apartment complex. I imagine that this is what it’s like to drive through Compton.
What type of riders will you meet on route 1 or 11?
- Gardner’s/Lawnmen – If you recently purchased a new home or anything with a lawn or garden, this is the route for you. This route attracts a plethora of short Latin American individuals wearing uniforms from various lawn services or city/park departments. They also seem to always have grass stains on their clothing towards the later part of the day. So chic. The boots are the giveaway that they tend to lawns because of the excessive stains.
- Maids/Housekeepers – Just after the Jewish temple, along with the gardeners, you will find a collection of Asian and Latin maids who will also board the bus. If you are in the market for one, be prepared to have maids compete for your business on the route.
- Nannies – If you happen to be taking the route that goes through the hills, then you’ll be sure to find a nanny aboard your bus. Some even drag the kids they are watching along. I’ve seen one that sure went for a wild ride one day, being swung like a bat, while the nanny got off the bus to open his stroller.
So with that, I bid my lovely N4-to Friendship Heights, connection to Ride-On Route 1, adieu. On January 6, 2012 I am moving to the U-Street area, where I will be riding the S2 or S4 to work. I am sure that I will have a plethora of stories for my new fellow riders. Wish me luck, and till next time!