Georgetown the black hole of public transportation. It also can become horrible gridlocked and impossible to drive in. It combines the hassle of city driving with the lack of underground rail of the suburbs, so sometimes you need to get a little creative. Fortunately, LiveSmart DC is here to help. Here are the best ways to get in, out, and around Georgetown.
There’s a reason this is the first thing I’m going to recommend. If possible, it should be your number one option, always. If you’re staying inside the neighborhood, and the weather is nice enough, Georgetown is a beautiful neighborhood to walk around. 6,500 Georgetown undergrads can’t be wrong, they walk all over Georgetown, and most residents do as well. With centuries-old homes on treelined streets, and even cosmetic/historic trolley rails, Georgetown students have some of the most scenic walks to liquor stores in the country, and you can take these same strolls to get downtown or simply to a friends house. The neighborhood really is small enough to walk from the Dumbarton House all the way to the waterfront. If you can walk, always make this your first option.
Biking/ Capital Bikeshare
If you own a bike, use it around the town and even around the city. With the exception of the horribly humid July and August and a few very cold days in January and February, DC’s weather is usually perfect for biking without sweating through your shirt or freezing your fingers off. You already know about some of the bike trails in the area, but biking is usually also faster on the roads than buses and on heavy traffic days can even be faster than cars. Just make sure you be careful on the roads, bikes can be very hard to see, especially at night.
If you don’t own a bike, get to one of the bike shops on M St or Water st. and check them out. If you can’t afford something new (and expensive, most of the bikes in these stores start at close to a grand), get on Craigslist, where you can find something a little more reasonable. If you really don’t want to commit, there’s always Capital Bikeshare. The Capital Bikeshare program lets you sign up to borrow bikes from over 175 kiosks around the city (there are four in Georgetown, including one on the waterfront and one outside the front gates of Georgetown University). You can either pay by day, get a three day pass, pay per month, or commit to an entire year. The only downside is that they can be timed and need to be parked in a kiosk dock when not in use, so you need to make sure there is one nearby your destination. Started as a public service by DC’s Department of Transportation, Capital Bikeshare has seen a huge surge in ridership and has been a huge success in the district.
Georgetown does not have a metro stop, although not actually because residents believed that it would bring crime and an unwanted crowd to our town, like legend says. Of course, this makes getting around the city much more difficult for people without cars, taxi money, or car services. For those who need to get somewhere on metro line, there are good ways to get there. GUTS buses, which are supposed to be for students/faculty/employees of Georgetown, will take you to either Rosslyn (if you take the one from McDonough Arena on the south side) or Dupont Circle (outside of Darnall Hall on the north side), close to their Metro stops. Dupont is on the red line, while Rosslyn is Orange and Blue, so make your choice wisely. Make sure you check the schedule and running times, as they are subject to change based on whether or not students are on campus. If you are in east Georgetown, you can walk to the Foggy Bottom Station on GW’s campus (about 15-20 mins), but most places in Georgetown are closer to Rosslyn, right across Key Bridge (10-15 mins).
The myriad of buses criss-crossing through Georgetown can be confusing. But here are the ones you need to know to get in and out of the neighborhood. The D6 runs east and west and will take you out Reservoir Road all the way to Sibley hospital if you catch it westbound, and will run past volta park out Q Street to Dupont Circle if you catch it eastbound. Stops are along Reservoir Road and Q Street. If you are in West Georgetown outside the front gates of the University, the G2 will take you east to Dupont Circle also, and will go out P Street. You can catch this bus on Prospect Street, Dumbarton Street, or outside the front Gates of Georgetown University. If you need to get north or south or downtown, take the 36. This runs down Wisconsin Ave, down to M st., and then down Pennsylvania into downtown. Unfortunately, this runs weekdays only, but if you catch it going north it will take you up to Tenleytown, and into the city going southbound or eastbound. Be warned, however, buses are painfully slow (although fairly cheap, less than $2 to take it all the way down the line), and you should leave yourself a ton of travel time. If you need maps and timetables, they can be found here.
Circulator buses are a little faster, and are also cheap to take. There are two Circulator routes that run through Georgetown. If you need to get downtown on K Street or to Union Station, this circulator can be picked up on Wisconsin avenue or M Street. Make sure the destination on the bus reads Union Station. If you need to get to Rosslyn or Dupont Circle, you can pick this one up on M. St, just make sure the bus destination display matches yours. These can be taken for just a buck.
This is also technically just for Georgetown Students, but they don’t exactly card. On weekends the University provides a free shuttle service that runs on the weekends. The boundaries for these escort services are Whitehaven Parkway and W Street to the north, Prospect St. to the south, Foxhall and Reservoir roads to the west, and Wisconsin Avenue to the east. They start at 8pm and run until 2am and are great if you don’t feel safe walking home in the middle of the night. Call 202-784-RIDE (7433) to et picked up, although you’re going to have to wait a little while for them to get you if a ton of students are out as well.
Kinda expensive, but the fastest way to get around sometimes. Taxis will usually run you around ten bucks if you stay in Georgetown, and about $15 to get out to downtown or anywhere in Northwest. As gas prices rise, they are becoming more even expensive, and extra fees are always being added (especially for luggage or extra passengers), and if you’re slightly inebriated and taking them home late at night, you might take a very round about (and much more expensive) way to get home. (If you know your way around the city, it never hurts to remind a cab driver by kindly suggesting your preferred route home. Make something up like “there’s never any traffic on this road.” It will let the driver know you won’t be scammed without seeming like you’re accusing him of price gouging). Generally, if you can afford it, taxis are a great way to travel, but they will be slowed down by traffic just like any other vehicle.
Driving in this city, and in Georgetown, is not fun. But it can be a lot nicer than sitting on a bus or biking in the rain, and a lot cheaper than taking a cab. Most Georgetowners own cars (with the exception of Gtown’s student body) and they can be very convient. The trick is knowing when to drive and where. If you are in Burleith or Foxhall, you may want to try Canal Road to get either downtown or out to Virginia or Maryland. Canal road is great, as it blows by the University going East from Foxhall Road with few stoplights. Taking Canal out West towards Chain Bridge can be a good move, but cannot be take out of town during the morning rush hour, as it is one way into the city weekday mornings. In the middle of the day, there is little traffic, and it turns into a one-way out of the city to accomodate rush hour traffic in the evening. Despite this accommodation, there is still heavy traffic on Canal in both directions during rush hour, so avoid this road if you can. Canal going West will take you to M. Street (which you should never drive on, ever), Whitehurst Freeway, which blows by Georgetown into Foggy Bottom and rarely has traffic, and Key Bridge into Rosslyn which is empty on weekends and isn’t too bad midday. If you are coming from North of Georgetown’s campus on the weekends, you can even shortcut through the campus from Reservoir Road right down to Canal, as the gates are open to all on Saturdays and Sundays.
If you are trying to get to anywhere Southeast in the city on a weekday, you need to get to 66 (which connects to Rock Creek Parkway and runs under the Kennedy Center along the Potomac) before 3:15 in the afternoon, when it closes down and becomes one way running Northwest. Rock Creek Parkway does the same thing, and if you need to get up north in a hurry in the mornings, avoid it, as it is one way running into the city during the morning rush hour.
As a general rule of thumb, try to use your cars on weekends and not ever during rush hour. But if you have to, absolutely avoid West Georgetown from 34th St to the University and Reservoir Road to M. St during the afternoons. A combination of Holy Trinity’s Day school, Duke Ellington, Georgetown Visitation and the Washington International School’s release of students around 3:30 gridlocks the entire area. Hundreds of cars all attempt to get to Key Bridge at the same time and take up every road outside the front gates. For about two hours between 3 and 5, just don’t do it.
If there’s one reason not to drive your own car in Georgetown, it’s because of parking. Although a few places do have their own parking, (CVS on Wisconsin, Safeway), most weekdays and evenings it is impossible to find a place to park. There is a pay lot at Prospect and Wisconsin, which can be a good option as the meters on Wisconsin can be brutal (Good news, however: You no longer need change in Georgetown, as all metered parking whether kiosk or SmartMeter, take credit cards. This way you can’t see all the physical money you are losing when you park at a meter, which is psychologically comforting for me at least). My suggestion is to drive into the neighborhoods around Wisconsin Ave if you’re going into town to do a little shopping or dining, as these aren’t metered and sometimes aren’t limited in the evenings. You may have to do some hunting, but a little patience could pay off. Parking is free almost everyone on the weekends. As always, I recommend not driving, but if you’re set on it be prepared to take some time or spend some money trying to park.