So you’re a new student at one of the colleges around D.C. Are you from around here? If not, it may take some time to understand how to get around. You will need to familiarize yourself with transportation not only on campus, but around the city and perhaps the suburbs, too.
Here are some helpful tips for college students who are moving in for their first fall semester in the city.
Get a SmarTrip Card
It will be hard to get around the city without one of these. Your SmarTrip card will let you ride MetroRail and MetroBus, and is rechargeable. Be sure to register your SmartTrip card so you won’t lose funds if your card is lost or stolen.
Know Your Metro Stop
This is an obvious first step. Most of the area colleges have Metro stations near campus, but some require a hike to get to. Foggy Bottom, Adams Morgan Tenleytown, Vienna/Fairfax-GMU, College Park, Shaw-Howard, Brookland-CUA, and Van Ness-UDC all serve local colleges. Know your Metro station and how to get to it.
Test it Out
Let’s say you’ve landed an internship for a Congressman. Do you know how to get to the House office buildings and the Capitol? Do you know how long it will take? Try it out before your first day on the job, so you can arrive on time feeling confident.
Go With a Group
This is a pretty safe region, but it makes senses to travel with a buddy or two whenever possible.You’re more likely to be left alone by unsavory people, and you are less likely to get lost as well. Moreover, you may save on ridesharing or cab costs by traveling as part of a pair or small group.
Familiarize Yourself With Bikeshare
Capital Bikeshare is a popular option, and you may find it worth it to get an annual membership for $85. There are bikeshare docks in many locations convenient to college campuses, and this will free you from needing to store a bike in your dorm room. Dockless bike and scooters are also becoming very popular.
Don’t Get Stuck
College students in the area may feel it’s possible to go out on the town and not worry about the hour of return. But this ain’t New York. It’s important to remember that Metro stops running, after 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Before hopping on Metrorail, be sure to check the time of the last train returning to your point of origin. Uber, Lyft and traditional cabs are always options to get home if you get stuck, but that could be more costly.
Check for Discounts
Your college may have partnerships that allow you to get around the city cheaper. American University, for example, takes part in the UPass program, which gives students unlimited Metro rides. Student discounts for Uber and other services are also easy to find online.
Know Your Campus Bus Network
Many college campuses are little cities in and of themselves, with robust networks of shuttle buses that take you to destinations both on and off campus. These shuttles may be free or cheaper than Metro or other services, and may even run more frequently. University of Maryland’s Shuttle UM service, for example, is free for students and offers commuter shuttles taking you to and from places like Adelphi, Greenbelt, New Carrollton, Hyattsville, and even the Columbia Park N’ Ride.
Familiarize Yourself With MARC
Want to head up to Baltimore for the day? MARC train is a good option to head north for college students who may be without a car. Trains run regularly throughout the day on weekdays. Weekend service is a bit more limited but can still get the job done. There are even special bike cars on weekends. Consider taking the Camden Line to get to the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards.
Your Smartphone is Your Friend
We don’t need to be telling college students about smartphones. But, it helps to know they are good for more than just Tinder and selfies. Your smartphone can get you an Uber. Your smartphone can help you find the right bus. It can alert you to traffic jams and give you the most efficient route to anywhere. It’s also the home of your music, your podcasts and all you need to survive any Metro ride.
Get Comfortable Shoes
Ultimately, you may find that you can get anywhere you want to go simply by walking. So grab a decent pair of running shoes. You’ll save money, shed calories and will feel great.