Talkin’ Transit: Turkey Time!

Photo courtesy of M.V. Jantzen
Coming and Going, courtesy of M.V. Jantzen

So for the first time since moving down here, my wife and I aren’t driving anywhere for the holiday; since we bought our house this summer, we’re the hosts for this year’s holiday season.

However, I feel your pain, people. If you’re reading this now, you’re either like me and not going anywhere this holiday weekend, or you’re just procrastinating from packing and will most likely get caught in area traffic.

For you lazy bones, I’ve got some tips on alternate road routes, but we’ll knock out a few regional transit items first.

Photo courtesy of M.V. Jantzen
Fast Bus, courtesy of M.V. Jantzen

WMATA: Metro will be operating on Thanksgiving, but will be running on a Sunday schedule – from 7 a.m. to midnight – and as Tom reported, will be opening at 4 a.m. on Friday in anticipation of all the Black Friday sales crowds.

Besides the Sunday schedule, all Metro trains will be four cars, so don’t get stuck at the extreme ends of the platform. Running to meet a short train on a full turkey belly isn’t exactly fun exercise. With the Wizards game at Verizon in the evening, they will boost to six-car trains if crowds warrant.

On Friday, Metro is operating at standard weekday service with six- and eight-car trains during peek hours.

DCPD: WTOP brought word this morning that the DC Police Department have set up more speed cameras around town. Eleven new photo-enforced mobile radar units are now up and running. Fortunately for lead-foots, they’re in the ‘warning’ phase right now thru Christmas Day. Come Dec 26, however, fines start going out. To find out where the locations are, check out Adam Tuss’ report at

Holiday travel: Ok, so if you’re not chomping on lunch and you’re still planning on heading out by car, go. NOW! Jonathan had some great tips earlier this week on traveling by car, so check those out.

As most of us know, roads around here – especially highways and bypasses – are the most clogged between noon and 8 p.m. today. With gas pretty cheap right now – just hovering around $2 a gallon in the area – many people will be loading up and heading to all points along the seaboard. And with DC smack in the middle of the major interstates along the coast, you’re going to have to contend with other travellers from points north and south.

WaPo has a great “alternate route” page with excellent map graphics for those looking to avoid the biggest nightmare – the I-95 corridor. Going north, you can cut around I-95 by shooting across Rt. 50 and then up Routes 301/896/1. You still have tolls, but they’re much less than the I-95 fees. It’s a horrible idea during the summer because of beach traffic, but a great one now as the main artery gets clogged like Uncle Pat’s after four helpings of turkey and gravy.

Going south, one great alternative is shooting down Rt 29 (to avoid commuter-clogged I-66) and then arrowing west to I-81 via either I-64 or Rt. 460 past Lynchburg. Keep in mind that Charlottesville can see heavy traffic, but nowhere near what I-66 sees.

If you’re headed to Pittsburgh, Cleveland or towards the upper Midwest, consider finding an alternate route around the Beltway to I-70. My favorite is shooting down the Dulles Toll Road to Rt. 15, then north to Fredrick where I can pick up I-70. From there, avoid the narrow and costly Pennsylvania Turnpike by heading west on I-68 to I-79 in Morgantown, WV. If you’re Pittsburgh-bound, like we have been the last few years, going up Rt. 40 to Rt. 51 is a great time saver, provided snow and ice isn’t an issue.

If you’ve got some great shortcuts or suggestions, tell us in comments. Your fellow travellers will thank you!

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

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7 thoughts on “Talkin’ Transit: Turkey Time!

  1. I made the mistake of taking 40 through the mountains one year and got caught in a killer snow storm. Took me 9 hours to get home to the South Hills of Pittsburgh.

    I fully endorse the I-68 to 40/51 for those who are Pittsburgh bound though.

  2. If you’re heading for the NYS Thruway, don’t get on the Garden State! Take I-287 instead. This route also works if you are headed for Brooklyn or Queens as it provides a nice cut over Staten Island to the Verrazano. (Most people already know this, but there are some who get a pleasant surprise.) Also, the Post’s shortcut for getting round the DE toll plaza is worth its weight in gold.

  3. I-81 is a very nice drive, just be prepared for lots of trucks, they like it too.

    Heading to Leesburg and then taking Rt 15 north to Frederick is a good idea too, but watch out, Rt 15 is 1-lane each way for most of the trip and sometimes people do go slow.

    I-70 west of Frederick is usually slow going in the afternoons with rush hour traffic, same with Rt 15/I-270 once you get north of the I-70 interchange.

  4. Actually, Elliotte has my very favorite hint for getting northwest of DC quickly: Take the DTR out to Leesburg and catch US-15 north to Frederick en route to I-70 W. You miss all of the nastiness of 270, and it’s an incredibly beautiful drive.

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