More Why People Don't Use Transit

Village_at_shirlington_logo_webMy brother-in-law, who lives in Boulder, comes to the DC area three or four times a year on business, so we like to get together for dinner while he is in town. Today's the day. He's teaching a course in the Springfield area, and we decided to meet him in Shirlington at 6:30 this evening and choose one of the many fine restaurants once we are there.

My wife is attending a seminar today at 2400 N Street NW in DC, which she traveled to by Metrorail. I suggested to her that rather than come home first at the end of the day, she go directly to Shirlington and just meet us there. Neither of us has used transit to get to Shirlington from DC, but I'm savvy, so I know I could use the Metro trip planner to get her there.

Home_tripplannerSo I did, and as usual it gave me three options:
1) Foggy Bottom Metro at 5:51 (Blue line); transfer at Crystal City to the 23A; arrive Shirlington 6:27 (36 minutes)
2) Foggy Bottom Metro at 5:49 (Orange line); transfer at Ballston to the 23A; arrive Shirlington 6:26 (37 minutes)
3) Foggy Bottom Metro at 5:46 (Blue line); transfer at Crystal City to the 23A; arrive Shirlington 6:27 (41 minutes). This one's not another option! It's the same bus as #1, just an earlier train.

None of these is the best choice, though. Being familiar with the area and our transit system, I was pretty certain that there are buses from the Pentagon to Shirlington. Lo and behold, there are. In fact, 300pxpentagon_city_stationI learned that she could catch a bus direct from the Pentagon to Shirlington at 5:59, 6:02, 6:07, 6:15 (2 choices of bus) or 6:25. This is clearly the preferred choice--for two reasons. First, it's fastest (how come the metro planner failed to find this choice?). She can catch the train at Foggy Bottom at 6:03 and arrive in Shirlington at 6:27 (24 minutes). Second--and more importantly, it's way more flexible--if she misses her bus, it's a short wait for the next one. With the Metro Planner, if she misses the 6:10 at Crystal City, it's a 30-minute wait for the next bus.

All of this took me a good 10-15 minutes and a high-speed Internet connection to figure out. I'm not even sure if there might be some other good options that I missed (the Way to Go Interactive Shirlington map does not even show the 7E or 7C routes stopping in Shirlington Village). The larger point being that if we want people to use transit, it has to be way, way simpler. If people have to be an expert before they even get started, then they will just hop in their cars.

Let me assure you that if I had given her the Metro Planner options (or she had done it herself and not known to look for a Pentagon option) and she missed the bus by a minute or two, I would never get her to do it again. She would either drive or take a taxi. Or more likely, she would leave her seminar early, come home first and then drive with us to Shirlington, an hour-long exercise rather than 24 minutes.

Route_7So I instructed her to go the Pentagon and catch the 7C or the 7E. I had to write it down, though, because the 7A, 7B, 7D, 7F, 7H, 7P, 7W and 7X don't go there or aren't running or something. Why are there 10 different 7's? Just to make it harder on passengers? I'll rant on that on a different post (click here).

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