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DC's Most Overlooked Asset

Get acquainted with the bus system to get better acquainted with the city.

By Maxwell Hawla | 8/25/16 6:05am
Aimee Custis / Flickr

I was a bit of a homebody my freshman year. I wouldn’t isolate myself in my dorm for days on end or anything drastic like that, but I definitely remained within my comfort zone. Occasionally, I’d go a hookah bar in Adams Morgan, monumenting downtown or grab a meal in Chinatown. However, this was rare, and I only ever rode the Metro.

With so many new things – faces, names, places, actually making decisions – freshman year slaps you in the face and everyone has their own two cents to give you about all of it. So here’s mine: take the bus. I wish I took it more my freshman year. I would have become more oriented in the city, and saved a lot of money – It is easily the most efficient way to get around D.C. on a budget.

You barely even need to leave campus to ride the bus.

N2, N4, N6

Running between Friendship Heights and Farragut Square are the N2, N4 and N6. You can catch the N2 in front of either Ward or SIS on Nebraska Ave., or alternatively the N4 and N6 outside of Katzen on Massachusetts Ave. All of them stop in Dupont Circle if you’re heading there. So whether it’s to the mall in Friendship, to eat some empanadas in Dupont or to take photos of the White House (a short walk down Connecticut Ave from Farragut), any of these three lines will become most essential to you as an AU student.

M4

Additionally, the M4 runs by campus along Nebraska on weekdays, perfect if you want to head down to Chevy Chase Village. Hop on at the same stops as the N2 in front of Ward or SIS and ride it until Nebraska Ave and Connecticut Ave intersect. Play games and savor some gourmet pizza at Comet Ping Pong or enjoy some coffee over a book at Politics & Prose. Chevy Chase is also a nice neighborhood to just go on a walk as well with its ornate houses and quiet parks.

Everyone knows AU offers a free shuttle service between main campus and Tenleytown. Rather than just being a Metro stop, Tenley serves as a great place to catch another bus to go somewhere else and is the point of overlap for an array of bus lines:

96

Let’s start with the 96. It’s the easiest way to get to Adams Morgan or further to the U Street and Shaw neighborhoods, which have a multitude of concert venues where you’ll most likely want to see a show at some point. Don’t take the Metro. To get to Adams Morgan by Metro, you would take the shuttle to Tenley, catch the Red Line and then walk an additional twenty minutes. But taking the 96 bus takes you right to 18th Street at two-thirds the time and price. As for U Street, you’d have to continue on to Chinatown only to transfer to the Green or Yellow Line. The 96 is a way better (and later running option) to get your fix of Ethiopian food or Ben’s Chili Bowl – two must haves as a D.C. resident – or to enjoy the fountains and characters in Meridian Hill park.

H2, H3, H4

Then there’s the H2, H3 and H4. In a similar fashion as the N lines, these all run between Tenleytown and Brookland on varying routes, making stops in Cleveland Park, Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, all on the way to Northeast. It’s easily your best way to Columbia Heights rather than taking the Metro.

30N, 30S, 31, 33

Finally, and most popularly among AU students, there are the 30 bus lines: the 30N, 30S, 31 and 33. A lot of people just take these to Georgetown, but all four run from Friendship Heights to different locations around the city: the 30N to Naylor Road out in Prince George’s County, MD, the 30S to Southern Avenue down in Southeast, the 31 to Foggy Bottom (right by the Department of State) and the 33 to Federal Triangle near downtown. Don’t bother taking the shuttle to Tenley, though. Catch one of the N lines down Mass. Ave., get off at Wisconsin Ave. and catch of the 30s there. You can transfer between bus lines within the span of two hours free of charge. If you were to catch the 30N or 30S down to Eastern Market, you’d save $3 or $4 compared to some Metro rates.

At various points throughout my freshman year, I took the Metro to places like U Street and Adams Morgan, not realizing how close they are to each other despite the Metro rides to get to them being vastly different in length. I was essentially clueless when it came to truly navigating D.C.

So I repeat: just take the bus. Acclimate yourself to the city you now live in. Look up bus routes and times online with Google, download the DC Metro and Bus app on your phone (Apple or Android), or use nextbus.com. Whichever works best for you. You can catch buses anywhere around D.C. and take them just about anywhere else, and you’ll get to pass through the whole of your new city rather than moving between two points in it from below.