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The Bus is King

Knowing the best way to get around is a great way to explore the city, get to places effectively and cheaply, and connect with the city's community. The bus, in particular, can be daunting for amateurs, but professionals know its versatility and use in getting from place to place. AU students, listen to me, ride the bus!


Traveling across DC is an underrated aspect of college life at AU. There are many options to get around the city: by car, foot, scooter, rideshare, or bike. All of these methods have their pros and cons. If you are an AU student who wants to get across the city quickly and on a budget, then one transportation modality is king—the bus. More environmentally friendly than a car, cheaper than renting a scooter or rideshare, less physically exerting than running or walking, and with greater coverage than the metro, the Metrobus has it all. However, knowing from personal experience, many AU students discount the bus as a viable transportation option because they do not trust it or know how to use it.

To these AU students, I urge you, take the bus. The bus makes running errands or getting to inaccessible neighborhoods easy. For example, I have heard many AU students complain how hard it is to get to Georgetown. It is too far to comfortably walk and too far from any metro stop. However, by bus, getting to Georgetown is a piece of cake. If you are an AU student, all you need to do is go to the Tenley stop on the shuttle and take the 31 or 33 bus. It goes straight through Georgetown on Wisconsin Ave before turning left on M street where you can get off the bus and enjoy the neighborhood's cafes, restaurants, and specialty shops.

What makes the bus the king of DC transport is not that it is better than every other method, but that broken down into key factors such as speed, accessibility, cost, environmental impact, range, and a few other miscellaneous aspects, the bus consistently outperforms most transportation methods. While mixing transport modalities, such as driving or biking to a metro station, is a good solution, the bus stands on its own as a reliable transport method.

For example, the metro may be faster, but the bus covers a far greater breadth of the city. The metro has six lines and 91 stops (with 7 more under construction) while the bus has 269 routes going through 11,129 bus stops. This makes the bus more accessible for most of DC’s residents and is more likely to drop off riders at their destination.

In contrast to the metro, cars or rideshare services outperform buses in terms of speed and breadth since they are not constrained by any set route. However, I would recommend buses over rideshare or owning a car for most AU students, especially underclassmen. Firstly, it is indisputably cheaper. With the U-Pass, the bus is free. Rideshares cost from $9-$30 per ride, and using their services consistently adds up quickly. For students who get cars, in addition to the cost of buying it, they will have to shell out hundreds of dollars on gas, parking, and maintenance if they use the car often. Finally, using the bus is a more environmentally sustainable transport method compared to a car. For many students who prioritize decreasing their carbon footprint, the bus is a superior option to any car.

Finally, more individual transportation options such as walking, scootering, or biking are environmentally more friendly and follow a more direct route than buses, but have obvious flaws. They are only good during certain weather, and, with the exception of owning a very fast scooter or biking downhill, are slower than the bus.

The preceding rundown is not meant to shame anyone for using transport modalities that are not the bus. There are many cases when the bus is not the best option. Instead, this exercise is meant to demonstrate clear advantages the bus has over transportation methods available to students and to show the versatility of using the bus. It is, truly, the king of DC transport options.

With this in mind, what factors prevent bus usage? There are many, but a few stand out. For some, the bus is intimidating. People may not know where bus routes go or how to practice proper bus etiquette. For these concerns, I have several recommendations. First, understand that the bus is not a scary thing. There are no monsters inside, just normal people trying to get across the city. All one needs to function on the bus is self-awareness, common sense, and simple decency. Get on the bus, have a U-Pass ready to tap up front, and pull on the cord to get the bus to stop.

Secondly, knowing bus routes and times is easy in today’s digital age. Apps like citymapper and the transit button on Google Maps and Apple Maps show what bus route is best to take, when the bus is coming, and where the closest stops are. Following these directions makes travel by bus easy.

There are a few bus routes every AU student should know. The first are the 31 and 33, which I already discussed, that go from Friendship Heights all the way to Foggy Bottom and Pennsylvania Avenue. Second are the N2, N4, and N6 routes which go from Foggy Bottom to Dupont Circle and then follow Massachusetts Avenue to AU, Spring Valley or Tenleytown, and Friendship Heights. Finally the 96 starts in Tenleytown, passes by Cathedral Heights, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, and Logan Circle, stops right at Union Station, and eventually crosses the Anacostia river. Knowing these routes can help AU students navigate across northwest DC and around the downtown area.

In addition to serving as an informative call to action for AU students to use the bus, I believe the AU administration can include more materials about how to travel across DC. While programs such as Explore DC do cover public transportation, other spaces such as the AUx curriculum can educate more students about local transport options and help them utilize their U-Pass card more effectively.

In the discussion of public transport, I am reminded of the famous quote by General Omar Bradley who said “Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.” Knowing the best way to get around is a great way to explore the city, get to places effectively and cheaply, and connect with the city's community. The bus, in particular, can be daunting for amateurs, but professionals know its versatility and use in getting from place to place. AU students, listen to me, ride the bus!

David Leshchiner is a junior double-majoring in International Relations and Data Science. He serves as a Managing Editor for the Agora.

Image courtesy Jeffrey Beall, Creative Commons

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