The greater Washington region consists of twenty cities and counties spread across portions of two states, plus the District of Columbia. Learning how to move about the region will be essential to your experience during a temporary work assignment or extended stay in the area. The region is served by a comprehensive network of transportation options. In order to navigate effectively, you will want to become familiar with the following systems by name and have a general sense of the areas they serve:
The Washington Metro is a comprehensive, high-speed urban and suburban rail transit system that serves the District of Columbia as well as Maryland and Virginia suburbs such as Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Alexandria and Arlington. In addition, many federal agencies have direct stops on the Metrorail system such as the Pentagon, L'Enfant Plaza, Federal Triangle, the Navy Yard and Federal Center Southwest. The Metro runs 7 days per week, but opening and closing times each day vary, so make sure to confirm the last train from your given station if you will be out late.
The MARC system is Maryland's suburban commuter rail service that links Union Station in the heart of Washington with communities to the north and west of the city on three lines to Baltimore and Perryville, MD; Frederick, MD; and Martinsburg, WV. In some cases, MARC trains stop at stations also served by Metro. MARC operates on weekdays only.
This commuter rail service provides suburban access from Northern Virginia communities into downtown Washington, stopping at L'Enfant Plaza in as well as at Union Station. VRE operates on weekdays only.
The national passenger rail service is headquartered in Washington and many of Amtrak's trains begin or terminate at Union Station. Acela Express service provides frequent, high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor to cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.
Multiple carriers provide frequent bus service, including express and commuter bus services, throughout the region. These include the following:
- ART Bus - Local bus services for Arlington County, VA
- DASH Bus - Local bus services for the City of Alexandria, VA
- Fairfax Connector - Local bus service for Fairfax County, VA with service to Arlington and Alexandria
- Loudoun County Trnasit - Express commuter bus from Loudoun County, VA to Washington, DC
- Metrobus - The primary bus service for the City of Washington and many regional routes
- OmniRide - Express commuter bus from Prince William County, VA to Washington, D.C.
- REX Express - Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line connecting from Alexandria, VA to Fort Belvoir
- Ride On - Local bus services for Montgomery County, MD
- Valley Connector - Express commuter bus from Front Royal, VA to Arlington and Washington, DC
- Van Go - Urban shuttle system serving Silver Spring, MD
The Washington, D.C. / National Capital Region is served by three major airports located throughout the area:
Reagan National Airport — This airport, Washington's "hometown" airfield, is located in Arlington, Virginia just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington. Reagan National is a busy airport that primarily serves domestic travelers and is home to the "air shuttle" services that link Washington and New York with frequent scheduled flights. Some international flights also originate here. Regan National is accessible via the Washington Metro, with a station directly on the airport grounds.
Washington Dulles Airport — Located in Loudoun County, VA, approximately 30-45 minutes from Washington. It serves both domestic and international flights and is Washington's primary global gateway airport. Dulles is not on a transit line but is located at the terminus of the dedicated Dulles Tollway and is also served by the Washington Flyer shuttle service, connecting to the Metro's West Falls Church station.
Baltimore/Washington Airport — Its full name is Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, but most travelers refer to it simply as BWI. The airport is located just south of Baltimore, MD and is often used by Washington area travelers. BWI is a major domestic and international airport and home to many of the leading 'low cost' air carriers due to its ability to serve major cities. BWI is accessible via a direct Amtrak rail link (make sure your train is scheduled to stop at BWI Airport Station) and via the Metrobus B30 Express line. Or you can drive north on I-95 or the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to I-195, the BWI connector highway.