Updated on January 4, 2019 to include newest toll and fare hikes…
Working with so many clients relocating to Loudoun over the years, I had plenty of opportunity to see firsthand how much of a role commuting distance played in the home buying decision. With so many residents of Loudoun commuting to Herndon, Reston, Tysons/McLean, and into DC itself, the amount of time spent trying to get from place to place is a huge consideration on where you want to live. It’s reflected in our home prices as well; the most stark comparison was during the new construction boom days, when you could choose between buying the exact same model of home from the same builder in a Leesburg community versus an Ashburn one, and the difference in price for the 10 minute closer commute? Somewhere around $50,ooo. Anyone who has shopped for real estate in Loudoun understands that the further west you go, the more home and/or land you get for your money.
But how do you get to where you are going without succumbing to road rage or breaking the bank on tolls and/or parking? The good news is that there are now a lot of different options for Loudoun commuters, with the opening of the Metro’s silver line. I took a crash course on commuting when I took the job at NAR in 2012; my office was on Capital Hill…and the east side of DC is not an easy place to get to at any point of the day, let alone during rush hour.
After surviving it for a couple of years, here’s my thoughts on what to consider when planning your commute:
- Driving to work gives you the most control over your schedule, but if you are heading into DC, be prepared to pay between $12-$20 a day for parking. Some garages offer monthly plans that can help bring that cost down. Tolls add to the daily tally: taking the Greenway from Leesburg costs $7.15 per leg during peak time, plus the Dulles Toll Road is another $3.25. Oh, and then there’s also the cost of gas.
- Driving: The rules changed in December 2017 for Route 66, the main commuting road into DC. Per their website: “Those who drive alone can use the lanes during rush hours by paying a toll. Those traveling with two or more people can continue to ride free. All solo drivers using the lanes during rush hours need an E-ZPass, and carpoolers need an E-ZPass Flex, switched to the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) mode, to use the lanes free.” While using the calculator on their site shows an estimated toll of $3.50 at rush hour (laughable), we’ve seen it hit $45–yes, you read that right–for a one way express lanes usage. While GW Parkway is always an alternative, it can get very congested, like any other route into the city.
- Taking the metro: there is plenty of parking at the Wiehle-Reston East station ($4.95 a day/ $65 a month), or you can take a Loudoun commuter bus there and back for $1 each way, using a SmartTrip card.
- Metro fare into the city from Reston during peak commuting time will cost about $6.00. You can plan your exact route and times here.
- Loudoun Commuter Bus: Very, very convenient. For $10 round trip ($11 if paying cash), you can hop on a comfortable bus (yes, there is a restroom) from numerous park and rides in Loudoun, and ride it to Rosslyn, Crystal City, and all parts of DC. The county website has route information. You may have to bus/metro/walk a bit from one of the designated stops.
- The Loudoun buses run morning and afternoon routes, with one midday bus that hits all stops. If you have an emergency and need to get back to Loudoun during the day, there is a Guaranteed Ride Home program available.
Because I was traveling to the east side of DC, and because the bus dropped off literally in front of the NAR building, I used the Loudoun commuter buses to get to and from work from 2012 to 2014. I’ve lived it. If you are relocating to Loudoun and have questions about commuting times, and how to factor that into your decision, just ask. We are happy to help.