Getting around in VA

So, after a week of being in Virginia and trying to figure out the transportation system to allow me to get to and back from work, I think I may have finally figured out my commuting schedule for now.

I am currently staying in Stafford, courtesy of some very nice folks. However, Stafford is slightly out of the way from Arlington and DC.

There are no regular buses or trains that leave Stafford to go anywhere really, as everyone drives to wherever they need to go.

Garrissonville is the place in Stafford, where most of the shops and action is at and I am about an hour and ten minutes walk removed from there.

Most people who live in Stafford work in the city, whether that is DC, or Arlington or even the Pentagon, which means they must commute every morning. Traffic is an absolute nightmare, however, and at peak times (between 05:00 am – 07:00 am and 03:00 pm – 06:00 pm) it can take up to three hours to get from Stafford to Arlington.

 

The express lane on the highway is open, but can’t be used unless the vehicle has three or more passengers in it.This presents a unique, but awkward opportunity. I call it legal hitch-hiking, however the kind folk in Virginia refer to it as “slugging”.

You have your drivers and your riders.

Drivers are the ones who would like to drive into work but not get caught up in traffic each day and hence are willing to provide rides for random people, so that they can meet the minimum requirement of three passengers.

The drivers benefit as they get to travel in the comfort of their own car, listen to their own music and not sit in traffic for any more than is needed. The express lane takes just under an hour to get from Stafford to Arlington.

Commuters are those that may not have cars and a means of getting to and from work each day. Commuters may also not want to incur the extra cost associated with gas prices and parking fees in the big city.

Hence, there exits, in Stafford, designated parking lots, known as commuter lots, where riders park their cars and form “slug lines”. Each “slug line” is like a bus stop and may be going to a different location.

Drivers come up in and state how many riders they are willing to take, and the riders casually get in. This allows a peaceful journey to their chosen destination at which stage, the driver and rider part ways and may never see each other again.

My slightly problematic situation is as follows. I live about an hour and ten minutes walk away from this designated parking lot in Garrissonville. These slug-lines operate during peak traffic hours and hence my deadline is really to 07:00 am, which means if I want to ensure that I have a ride out to Arlington in the morning, I have to be there before 06:40 am, hence I have to wake up and begin my joyous walk just after 05:00 am.

The walk is quite interesting as foot paths are hit and miss and street lights are not really a part of the deal. This allows me to walk quite briskly to my chosen destination.

Anyway, I think I am beginning to get the hang of this now, but as I learned last week, I don’t want to be late and miss this morning deadline as the only other way out of Stafford is to get a cab.

A cab can take you to the nearest town, Woodbridge, where you can catch a bus to the next town, Springfield, which will then allow you to get the Metro into DC and then change Metros to get to Arlington. A cab into Woodbridge is $30.00, so that is usually saved for last resort.

So, for now, early mornings are a part of my schedule and I get my daily walk every morning and evening.

Here’s to public transportation 🙂

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