Northern Virginia has lots to offer, but even my half-glass-full outlook admits that logistics can be a real challenge sometimes. Since the Honorable Service Realty operating area is mostly up and down the I-95 corridor and then along the west side of the 495 beltway, that area will be the primary focus. After you read this article, you’ll be armed with lots of options for commuting into DC or points along the way.
495/95 Express Lanes. The most common practice for commuters headed to the beltway, the Pentagon, or into D.C. is to use the Express Lanes (https://www.expresslanes.com/using-the-lanes).
Fast Facts about Using the Express Lanes
- The Express Lanes operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Drivers can use the lanes anytime and tolling is always in effect.
- All drivers need an E-ZPass and carpoolers need an E-ZPass Flex.
- With three or more people and an E-ZPass Flex, HOV-3 travel toll-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- The 95 Express Lanes end and the HOV lanes begin on I-395 just north of Edsall Road. The rules on the I-395 HOV lanes will not change. Read more about this transition area.
- You will see pricing and regulatory signage in advance of all Express Lanes entrances. These signs guide you to the lanes, explain the rules of the road and provide you with information on current toll pricing.
- The Express Lanes use dynamic pricing to keep you moving. Read more about Express Lanes pricing.
- The 95 Express Lanes are reversible. The entry and exit points open and close depending on which direction traffic is flowing.
Slugging. Slugging is an organized hitchhiking system used to help cars meet their 3-occupant requirement. Here’s how it works: “slugs” (people who want a free ride to D.C.) line up at appointed locations (generally commuter lots). The Pentagon is the first stop after the Express lanes end; the metro station there enables you to commute to any metro-serviced destination from that point on. There are other slug lines that will get you further into D.C., Crystal City or Rosslyn. If you’re a driver and need another occupant or two, swing through the slug line that works best for you and pick a couple up. In the evening, you enter the line that gets you back to where you parked your car. The Pentagon offers the entire array of slug lines but there are several designated corners throughout D.C., Crystal City and Rosslyn. Many folks aren’t above walking with a sign listing their preferred commuter lot. To learn more about the system, go to www.slug-lines.com
Carpools and Vanpools. Vanpools and carpool services are particularly helpful if you commute to somewhere that isn’t serviced by the bus system. For a lot of folks who live in Virginia but commute to Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, the bus and slug systems don’t work as well. With 3 occupants in the vehicle, it’s easy to use the Express Lanes to the beltway and then take the beltway across the Woodrow-Wilson Bridge to Maryland. An internet search of “vanpools” or “carpools” will link you to numerous resources.
Buses. Prince William County’s Omni Bus and the Fairfax Connector are robust bus services. There are bus stops in many major neighborhoods and near commuter lots (official and unofficial). Instead of taking the Omni bus straight to the Pentagon, there are options to take it to a metro connector or the Fairfax County connector, which can then allow you to take public transportation to places like Ft. Belvoir or a location on the metro. Alexandria has the Alexandria DASH Bus Service, and Metro Bus runs throughout Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, D.C. and Maryland to help you connect to locations not serviced by Metro and/or to get to a metro station.
VRE. Virginia Railway Express is another option for commuters. There are two lines; the Red Line originates at Fredricksburg and follows the 95 corridor, and the Blue Line originates in Manassas City and covers the west access to the city, through Burke and Springfield. They both terminate at Union Station in DC, but the Red Line also stops at several Metro Stations along the way.
METRO.There are some great I-Phone and DROID apps to help plan your trips, check rail outages and delays, and find out when the next train is due to your station.