Georgetown Explained

Georgetown Explained: Getting around D.C.

September 24, 2021


Illustration by Deborah Han

Washington, D.C. is reopening. Ready to explore it? You could walk or take an Uber, or you could try getting around like a real Washingtonian. Equipped with D.C.’s range of transit options, you can get around the District quickly, easily, and affordably.

Buying a SmarTrip card is a prerequisite for using the city’s public transit, especially as most modes of transportation only accept exact change. They are available at kiosks in every Metro station as well as CVS. For $10, you will get a plastic card with $8 of preloaded value to spend on Metro or bus trips. (For now, buying a card and fare is essential. By next academic year, Georgetown may begin participation in U-Pass, making a discounted public transit plan part of tuition.) Download the SmarTrip app to your phone to easily manage and reload your card, or upload the card to Apple Wallet and ditch the plastic altogether.

Buses

The closest transportation option to the Hilltop is the bus system. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is responsible for both the Metrobus and the Metrorail systems. Metrobuses are identifiable by their gray and red design, and fare is typically $2.00. Note that while fare evasion is decriminalized, meaning that it’s no longer an arrestable offense, avoiding fare is still illegal. Tap your card or phone at the front of the bus and take a seat.

The nearest Metrobus line is the G2, which runs from the front gates of campus, goes down P Street, and drops off at Howard University. Lines 31 and 33 toward Friendship Heights provide easy transport up and down Wisconsin Avenue.

The Circulator system is another, more affordable, option for taking the bus. While the city eliminated the fare from Circulator buses before the COVID-19 pandemic, its original $1 fare will be reinstated as of Sept. 30. While the Metrobus routes travel throughout the DMV, the Circulator’s six lines are clustered in the downtown area and some adjacent neighborhoods. Although there are fewer lines and stops, these bright red and yellow buses can still take you to numerous D.C. landmarks.

The university also operates the Georgetown University Transportation System (GUTS) bus as a free shuttle for students, staff, and faculty. The Rosslyn and Dupont Circle GUTS routes will drop you conveniently at their respective Metrorail stations, with additional lines running to Arlington, university offices on Wisconsin Avenue, and the Law Center. All five GUTS bus routes leave from a corral outside McDonough Gymnasium. GUTS is not without its limitations, however, as the buses only run on weekdays from 5 a.m. to midnight.

Metrorail

Metrorail is D.C.’s primarily underground train system, also referred to as the “Metro.” It’s one of the fastest forms of public transportation and reaches 91 stops across the DMV.

Georgetown has long lacked a Metro stop, so most students use Arlington’s Rosslyn Station, which is a mile from campus across Key Bridge. Rosslyn serves the Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines and is accessible by GUTS bus.

The cost of Metrorail rides scales depending on distance and time of day, ranging from $2 to $6, again payable via your SmarTrip card. Stations have kiosks to load extra credit onto your card, as well as route maps on platforms and in cars to show each stop the train makes. If your destination is on a different line, just switch trains at any transfer station—Metro Center for the Red Line, or L’Enfant Plaza for the Yellow and Green Lines.

While some Metro stations were closed due to a lack of ridership during the pandemic, they have all since reopened. Trains have also returned to their pre-pandemic service schedules.

Scooters and Bikeshare

The District also has a number of options for individual transportation, including bikeshare stations and electric scooters. These are great options if you’re looking for some fresh air, or to navigate somewhere public transportation doesn’t reach.

The closest bikeshare station is just outside the front gates, on the corner of 37th and O streets. There’s also one across the street from Falafel, Inc. on the corner of Potomac and M streets, and additional stations are located all across the city. Google Maps and the Capital Bikeshare app also show bikeshare stations and available bikes. A Capital Bikeshare membership costs $25 per year for Georgetown students, and each ride is free for the first 30 minutes (but costs $1.50 for up to an hour, an additional $3 for up to 90 minutes, and an additional $6 for every 30 minutes after that).

To unlock a bike, sign up for a bikeshare account using a Georgetown email, then download the app, and use it to scan the station’s QR code. When you’re done riding, just return the bike to any station and wait for the dock light to turn green.

If you’d prefer to scooter, it should be pretty easy to find one. Each company—Lime, Jump, Spin, and Bird, to name a few—requires you to download its own app to unlock a ride. Scooters generally cost $1 to start, and are then between $0.15 and $0.40 for each additional minute, depending on which brand you choose.

To borrow a scooter, download the app (Lime is convenient because you can reserve through the Uber app). Then use the app to scan the QR code located on the scooter to unlock it, and when you’re done, don’t forget to end the ride through the app as well. Be sure to use caution when scootering; they’re designed to be ridden in the street, not the sidewalk (especially in areas with high pedestrian traffic).

Carsharing

If there aren’t any buses or trains going to your destination, and it’s too far to bike, walk, or scooter, carsharing is another (but more expensive) option. In D.C., Zipcar or Free2Move are the primary rental car brands.

Georgetown has eight Zipcars on campus: five of them parked between Harbin Hall and SW quad, and the other three in the lot behind Lauinger Library. Zipcar charges a $35 annual fee if you sign up with your Georgetown email address, and then an additional $9.50 per hour or $79 per day while using the car. Keep in mind that each mile you drive over 180 miles costs $0.58.

Remember, you do need a driver’s license to drive a car. For Zipcar, first sign up on their website using a Georgetown email address and submit a photo of your driver’s license. After the account is verified, pick a car, schedule a timeframe, and unlock it through the app. After you’re done driving, take the car back to where you got it and end the ride in the app.

Free2Move cars can be found throughout the D.C. area and Georgetown neighborhood. Rentals cost $0.45 per minute, $21 for the first hour ($16 per hour after that), or $106 per day. The unlocking process is similar to Zipcar’s: download the app, submit your license, and reserve a car to unlock it. When you’re done driving, park anywhere on the street in D.C. (just make sure you don’t leave it in a lot that charges fees) and end your drive in the app.

D.C. is a big city, but getting around can be both easy and affordable. Make the most of your time on campus and “pop” the Georgetown bubble by exploring the District via bus, rail, bike, scooter, or car! 


Margaret Hartigan
Margaret is a freshman in the college majoring in Spanish and Government. Her favorite author is Donna Tartt, her favorite color is green, and she enjoys listening to the "Pride and Prejudice" soundtrack while she writes.


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