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Some of our local officials are going to embark on the #transitchallenge next week (hooray!), so here are some (or rather, many) tips. Transit 101 (also, the 101 is a good Ride On route). 🚌🚏🚍🚉🚇🚶‍♂️🚶‍♀️🚲🚴‍♂️🚴‍♀️
🗒️⌚️Preparation: the challenge doesn't start for a few days, so use this time to get familiar with at least some of the routes you'll take and a general idea of when/how often they run (some routes only run M-F). Good route planning goes a long way when using transit.
Timetable information is available online for Ride On and WMATA. I find some of WMATA's online Metrobus timetables incredibly hard to decipher because they list information for multiple routes on the same timetable (looking at you, Q line... aka Q1/Q2/Q4/Q5/Q6)
🗺️🚉🚍🚏🚌➡️❓ Route planning: If you need to figure out what transit options are available in your area, use Google Maps or Citymapper for route planning. Citymapper will also show you fare information for a given trip! 💳💵
🚇🚍⌚️❓ When will the bus/train come? Google Maps does have realtime information, but I think the interface for that feature is less than ideal for on-the-go situations, so I use @transitapp for that.
.@Transitapp aggregates realtime info for all the nearby transit agencies in one app, so you can see info for Metrorail/bus, Ride On and others all in the same place. You can set favorite locations (like home/work/school) and routes you use frequently.
I'd say Transit app and Citymapper have a bit of a learning curve, so maybe take some time to play around with them and get familiar with their features. Realtime information isn't *always* available, but when it is, it's nice to have.
WMATA has realtime info on their website (ex: buseta.wmata.com/m/index?q=Q5) which actually isn't half bad. Ride On has a realtime website as well, although I think Transit app is easier to use than the Ride On realtime website.
👟👞 What to wear? Shoes that are comfortable to walk in (if applicable/necessary, bring a change of shoes for when you arrive at the office) since you'll be doing more of it -- walking to/from bus stops or to/through train stations and so on.
☂️🌦️🌧️⛈️☀️ Check the weather every morning! Very important so you don't get caught out in the rain unprepared. If necessary, bring a rain coat/umbrella. Since it's June, cold weather clothing isn't applicable, but in the winter, make sure to bundle up.
Sometimes you'll find out that a particular jacket isn't as waterproof or windproof as you thought! I prefer rain coats (still looking for one with a really large hood to fit over my bun though) since it's annoying when your umbrella blows inside out.
Rain boots may be useful here, although I personally find them uncomfortable to walk much in (too stiff and clunky), so I just wear regular shoes and try to avoid big puddles.
For any more casual outings when it rains, swim trunks and sandals are actually a really good idea! This way your clothes will dry more quickly. There are some swim trunks that don't look too obviously like swim trunks.
I have this pair, which I wore as rainwear once. People didn't even know they were swim trunks until I told them! Of course, swim trunks with quieter colors/patterns are available if bright florals aren't your thing. amazon.com/Ibiza-Ocean-Cl…
All the functionality of regular shorts (they even have pockets!!) but extra good for getting wet, whether that's in the pool or at the beach, or just going out in the rain.
If it's hot, try to dress accordingly and hope that there'll be some shade when you're waiting for the bus or walking somewhere. Maybe a shade umbrella is in order? Here is some really interesting reading about shade + urban design from @PlacesJournal: placesjournal.org/article/shade-…
When heading to a stop/boarding the bus or train, look at the (destination) sign and double check that you're getting on one going in the right direction. If you aren't paying attention, you might accidentally end up somewhere you didn't intend to go.
This is a little more important at "loop" stops where both directions of a bus route use the same stop (like at Metro stations, or at MC) rather than being on opposite sides of the street.
To reiterate: route planning is really important to help things go more smoothly when taking transit. I love planning, so this comes naturally to me, although I realize it might feel like a hassle for others.
⏱️🚶‍♀️🚶‍♂️ Think about how long it might take you to walk to a stop or station, so that you can get there in time to catch the bus/train. If you have children with you, for example, it might take longer. Try to arrive a few minutes early.
If you take transit enough, you get very familiar with how long it takes you to traverse certain distances for the parts of your trip on foot.
On/off the bus or train: know which stop you need to get off at, and pay attention for it! Stops are announced on buses and trains; it helps to know which ones are just before the one you need so you're prepared. On buses, pull the string before your stop to signal the driver.
If the bus or train is crowded, don't be obnoxious and take up more space than you need. But if it's nearly empty, feel free to spread out. I'd hope that people already know this, but try not to bother other passengers.
You might settle on a favorite spot to sit on the bus; I know I have mine and it always pleases me if I can sit there (on the right, next to the window, the first row behind the back door of the bus -- Ride On buses have more legroom here than Metrobuses though)
I also love people watching so that's another bonus of taking transit. Lots of people to watch. And pay attention for desire paths when you're walking. There's one outside the thrift store I usually go to, for example.
🎒👝👜🛍️ Carrying your stuff: this becomes a lot more important when you don't have the convenience of a lockable living room on wheels (ie a car) to keep things in. Figure out the stuff you'll need for a day, then figure out how best to transport it.
Depending on how much stuff you carry, you might find that different bags work for your purposes. I like to have a water bottle, so a bag with a side pocket was really important to me. See more about my quest for that here: (Patagonia Half Mass forever!!)
I also like lots of pocketization, but I won't go too far into the details of ideal bag selection here (unless you want me to??). Messenger bags, backpacks, briefcases, etc are all possible options.
I'm not sure anyone will go and buy a new bag just for the purposes of the #transitchallenge, but if anyone feels so inclined, Timbuk2 makes some (check out the Command and the Commute) that are more professional looking/less outdoors equipment than my Half Mass (which I love).
Remember that you have to carry this, so comfortable bag straps are a must. Bag comfort/ergonomics is a little hard to gauge until you actually use the bag in action. Something that seems fine at a glance might turn out to be uncomfortable/too small/etc.
A convenient place for your Smartrip card is also very useful. This bag (Patagonia Minimass shown, but the Half Mass has it too) has a back pocket that I slip it into. It's also on a lanyard that's attached to the bag so I don't have to worry about dropping/losing it.
Bag selection is a personal thing; I think people's preferences here vary widely and I imagine most people don't put as much thought into it as I have. There are tons of options though. I have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of messenger bags; feel free to ask for suggestions!
But wait! I'm not done yet on the topic of bags! Here we segue into biking. If you're going to bike for transportation at all during the #transitchallenge, think about which bags will work when riding a bike.
This is another thing that's a little hard to gauge without actually having the bag, filled with your things, while riding the bike. It's sort of trial and error. Panniers and/or bike racks could be useful if you have them.
Biking bags should be comfortable and relatively stable/secure, so not flopping around all over the place and throwing off your balance. Be aware that backpack straps that are fine when walking may dig into you uncomfortably when your arms are extended in front of you on a bike.
If you're really set on incorporating biking into your #transitchallenge, it could be useful to take a @WABADC (Washington Area Bicyclist Association) city cycling class this weekend (the ones offered this weekend are in Arlington/Alexandria, though) waba.org/adult-educatio…
In this class you learn all about how to bike in traffic; I can personally confirm that it's an effective class and it works wonders! For commuting by biking, plan out your route beforehand and ideally test-ride it on a weekend before you actually have to get to work.
There's plenty of information online about how to make bike commuting go smoothly (metaphorically, at least) so I'll link some here; feel free to research more and/or ask me for suggestions: bikeleague.org/content/commut… and bicycling.com/news/a20031666… #bikemoco
Google Maps also has decent biking directions; I haven't really found any other apps/websites that I like better (yet). You can take your bike on the bus or Metrorail (they're allowed at all times now) also! 🚲+🚌+🚇= #multimodal
Plan on factoring in a bit more time to navigate through Metro stations if you have a bike; you'll have to find and wait for elevators or carry your bike up/down the stairs or escalators (although you technically aren't supposed to).
The bike racks on buses are rather easy to use once you get the hang of them. Put up the kickstand, hold bike with left hand on the curb/sidewalk while unfolding the rack with right hand, then lift the bike up into the rack, then secure the front wheel with the clamp.
It's easiest to lift the bike onto the rack while holding the seat tube with one hand and somewhere around the handlebar region with the other hand. Be careful not to hit yourself in the head/face with the handlebars.
An additional suggestion: bring some reading material with you. Or maybe a knitting/crochet project. I prefer simpler (and smaller, so they're easier to carry) projects if I'm going to work on them on the bus so I don't have to keep referring to a pattern.
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