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Dear PoP – How Do You Get from BWI to DC Without Taking a Cab at Night?

by Prince Of Petworth October 29, 2009 at 3:00 pm 48 Comments

Blue Streak at BWI, originally uploaded by Guy Flâneur.


“Dear PoP,

A Metro complaint and a question for you and your readers: I flew into BWI tonight and caught the last B30 bus to the Greenbelt station. According to the timetable (http://www.wmata.com/bus/timetables/md/b30.pdf) the B30 is supposed to arrive at Greenbelt at 11:21 – in plenty of time to catch the last train. However, our driver spent a long, long time at each of his first stops (which are supposed to take a total of 6 minutes with driving time) and our bus didn’t arrive at BWI until 11:36, which means I missed the last train by 7 minutes. 5-10 others were stranded too, but unfortunately they weren’t going to the same part of DC as me, so I had to catch a cab on my own to get back to Petworth, and the damage came to $35.

My questions:
1) Has anyone had this happen before (the B30 bus cause you to miss the last train)?
2) Is it even worthwhile to complain to Metro? If so, what’s the most effective way?
3) Are there alternative ways to get from Greenbelt into town to avoid cabs?”

Wow, that’s pretty damn frustrating. But I think it falls under the shit happens category. I don’t think it would be worthwhile complaining to metro. What’s your best method of traveling from BWI to DC?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe try Amtrak? There’s a shuttle that leaves from the airport to the “BWI” amtrak station and you can take it into Union station. You still might have to cab it after that, but it’ll be a lot cheaper. There’s also Supershuttle.

  • I’ve never had any problem getting from BWI to DC at night by hitchhiking in nothing but a hockey mask and a sign around my neck that says, “ANYWHERE.”

  • FloristaThorne

    It’s proven worthwhile to pay for parking and have our car there, ready & waiting.

  • USA! USA!

    See the “Guaranteed Ride Home” section of this page:


  • MK

    Next time just take the Super Shuttle from BWI to your door for $22.

  • Kalorini

    Or, bribe a friend to come pick you up. A 6-pack is much less expensive than a $35 cab ride!

  • Emmaleigh504

    Also a fan of Supershuttle. And Thanks USA, I did not know about Guaranteed Ride Home. Have you ever used it? Is it a hassle?

  • Emmaleigh504

    over never mind it can’t be used for “transit service disruptions and/or delays”

  • USA! USA!

    @Emma – But, interestingly enough, you are allowed to take your Segway on Metro rail. How come nobody does this? Next time I’m out on my Segway, I’m definitely going to ride the green line. With my helmet on.

  • Hurleybird

    The same thing happened to me last time I flew into BWI. The B30 arrived at Greenbelt about a minute or two late. The station manager was telling people from the bus to run up to the platform because the last train was leaving. Most people from the bus hadn’t even made it to the station yet. The train had already started to pull away when i got to the platform, but luckily the operator saw me and stopped and opened the doors. That was nice, but it would be nicer if the B30 ran on time, the last train departed on time, and/or the Metro system operated like a “system” and held the last metrotrain until the last metrobus passenger made it aboard. The other B30 passengers presumably camped out at the station that night, because they definitley missed the train.

  • USA! USA!

    PS – The Minnesotans seem to do this “guaranteed ride home” thing better: http://www.metrotransit.org/riderPrograms/grh.asp

  • Petworth Newbie

    It’s usually worth an extra $50 to fly in and out of Reagan National.

  • College Park

    I’ve had the opposite problem, late on a Saturday night – the B30 had stopped running but the metro hadn’t. Lemme tell you, VERY expensive to cab it to Greenbelt. Not recommended.

  • rusty

    wow, I got completely hosed — I flew into BWI late a couple months ago and the cab driver charged me $90…

  • K St.

    I agree with Petworth Newbie. I hate nothing more than getting home from a long trip and finding myself not home, but at BWI with no idea how to complete the last leg of a trip, unless you check MARC timetables before hand and plan your flight accordingly (and none of your flights get delayed) then the lower fares at BWI are usually not worth the hassle/expense of getting home.

  • rusty

    also, parsing the Terms of Service… it looks like Guaranteed Ride Home 1. does not apply to business travel and 2. only operates between 6am and 10pm. Wrong program for this particular circumstance.

  • Andre

    Your best bet with getting to and from BWI is an Airport shuttle. Its around $30 to DC. The only problem is that It takes a long time to get home because they make a lot of stops.

  • Reason # 17,357 why I have a car and am not afraid to use it. In addition to my own personal uses, I can’t count the number of times over the years that I’ve gotten late night calls from friends begging me to come get them. Part of their “payment” for my kindness is that they get to spend the ride back listening to me explain why car=awesome.

    Otherwise, Amtrak isn’t really a bad alternative, I’ve heard.

  • rdo

    Friend with zipcar membership, one home-cooked dinner, and a whole lotta niceness for about a month or more. Especially if you land after 12:30 am.

  • Dirty

    $35 seems cheap. It’s $60 w/o tip from Dulles.

    Do they have ZipCar at BWI? It would be a great idea to get it there…

  • grumpy

    First, I disagree with PoP that it would not be worth complaining about to Metro — sure they should already know that this is a potential problem, but enough complaints (perhaps with persistent follow-up) could trigger a review of the bus route and driver performance. It was not a case of the bus running into unforeseen problems (i.e. traffic, mechanical failure), it was due to the bus driver’s inability to do their job on schedule.

    That said, I would recommend avoiding flying into BWI that late at night. Like Petworth Newbie says, sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little more to fly into DCA (or take a slightly earlier flight into BWI). And btw, the last time I took SuperShuttle from BWI to MtP it cost over $35 and took a really long time b/c I was the last person in my van to be dropped off.

  • Warderite

    Book an earlier flight if at all possible. It’s always a good idea to have an extra 45 minutes built in in case you miss the bus and have to take the next one.

  • Andre

    With SuperShuttle they charge per bag. So if you have a lot of bags it can cost a lot. I’m with Nichole. Car = AWESOME!

  • Anonymous

    Complain to Metro. They have got to learn that their late night service is useless unless they hold trains. Under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t have to hold trains more than a minute, and only in extreme circumstances would it be 5-7 minutes.

  • Erik

    Here’s my tip: I fly a lot for work, but I always schedule my flights so they aren’t arriving too late, before 9PM or so. I go to the Amtrak station at BWI, walk up to the counter and ask the person for a ticket on whichever train is coming next. Amtrak or MARC. Amtrak trains are always running late, and MARC many times too, I don’t care which one I take, just the first one. Works very well for me.

  • Zipcar isn’t one way.

    I’ve done the bus and super shuttle. The bad thing about supper shuttle is they usually drop off the downtown folks first, so most of us in PoPville get screwed.

    My advice to the particular situation above is to realize that when you layer public transportation like that (plane to bus to train) you exponentially increase the likelihood of something going wrong.

    You say you would have made it in plenty of time, but for the stops. Well, 10 or so minutes is not “plenty of time.” I like to have buffers of at least 30 minutes, especially when we’re talking about “last train” scenarios.

    Plan a little better and take super shuttle when it’s late.

  • Brett

    Hi all–
    I’m the guy whose comment got published above (thanks PoP). Thanks for all the suggestions. All things considered $35 isn’t the end of the world, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than keeping a car in DC and parking it at BWI every time I fly home). Also, my phone disappeared on this trip (lost or stolen) so I couldn’t call ZipCar, despite my membership, or do much else. And Amtrak and SuperShuttle seem like viable options for if you’re stuck at BWI, but don’t help when you make it to Greenbelt but get stranded there. I think I’ll try complaining to Metro and see if I even get a response.

    Warderite– I thought I had my bases covered: There were two B30 buses leaving for Greenbelt after my flight arrived (I just barely missed the first one) and the second one was supposed to get to Greenbelt 15 minutes before the last train. Next time I guess I’ll cut the time with family shorter and fly in earlier…

  • Brett just made the point I was about to re: Nichole and Andre’s love of automobile ownership. The cost of owning one is undoubtedly higher than many, many BWI cab rides.

  • Sure, but BWI is only one of a million reasons why I love my car. I drive all the time. I’m not the kind of person who is comfortable being limited to the confines of public transportation (or walking or biking). Car = freedom, no planning necessary (ZipCar requires forethought). I could hop in my car now and drive wherever, and not have to do it with a bus/train/plane-ful of other people, on someone else’s schedule. Plus, DC is not an expensive place to own a car. And, all the smug car-free folks sure like it when I can come get them from places from BWI at a moment’s notice.

  • Andre

    Noah, your right. Not every person has a car or even wants one because of the cost. As for myself, even with a car, I always fly out of National. The extra $50 for a ticket is well worth it for me. Saves time and the stress of getting to and from the airport.

  • voiceofreason

    Amtrak. About 30 bucks, a bit cheaper than a cab, and a quick ride to Union Station.

  • Andre

    Oh, and Nichole, your my new BFF. lol

  • Awww, thanks Andre! Drivers unite!

  • Angry Parakeet

    Na-tion-al! Na-tion-al! Metro in the a.m., treat yourself to a cab home late at night to door about 25 mins, $20 inc. tip. I’ve also found the tickets aren’t always higher.

  • i disagree with your assertion that this person shouldn’t file a complaint, PoP. wmata will never know there are problems if the customers don’t speak up. another commenter said it earlier—if they have enough data points that note this, it will get on someone’s radar screen and will encourage action.

    it’s just like with crime. you have to report things so the police can discern patterns.

  • Winslow

    I find the quasi-gypsy cabs at the Amtrak station to be a cheap alternative–it’s $20 per person to Union Station. They’re licensed cabs, but just not part of the BWI cab fleet that’s required to charge $90 for a trip to DC. You do have to get together a group of at least 3 people to make it work, though, which can be a bit of a hassle late at night. Considering the Amtrak ticket is $14 minimum, I’ve found it to be worth the extra money.

  • ogden

    I’ve been wondering if anyone ever actually has used that guaranteed ride home. It seems like it is a huge hassle. You have to pre-register and if your reason for needing the ride is work, they call your boss to check up on you before granting you a ride. And it only runs until 10PM so it wouldn’t help for trains that stop running at 11:20. And they will only pick you up at your work location. And you still have to pay for the cost of whatever ride service you use, and then get reimbursed by the guaranteed ride program later. And your supervisor has to sign a voucher on top of already having approved the ride arrangement in advance.

    It seems like a huge hassle. Has anyone used it?

  • FrequentTraveler

    I have been trying to cut BWI and Dulles out of my life for years! (unsuccessfully) For exactly these reasons. I love how they call themselves DC area airports. Let’s be honest… under no circumstance, even if you have your own car, does it take less than 45 minutes. I feel bad for the visiting business folk who don’t know that.

  • Anonymous

    Amtrak has been a solid to and from option for flights out of BWI. Price is as low as $12 each way on the local and it takes about 30 minutes.

  • nonnymus

    Thanks Angry Parakeet and Andre for referring to the closest airport to DC as either National or DCA.

    I’ll never fly into or out of Reagan Airport.

  • saf

    Complain to WMATA.

  • ogden

    FrequentTraveller: What major airport is closer than 45 minutes to its downtown area? Chicago by car (or El these days) is 45 minutes to the Loop. JFK is anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours to the Port Authority bus terminal. LAX to Union Station is also 45 minutes. Denver Airport is also 45 minutes from downtown. DFW is 30 minutes from downtown Dallas under the best conditions. Even the Kansas City airport is more than 30 minutes from downtown.

    I think it is safe to assume that most business people arriving in DC are prepared for travel times to downtown.

  • Matvey

    I just suck it up and take SuperShuttle. $37 from BWI to Mt. P, and I wind up sleeping for most of the ride, anyway. Considering that even if I hit the last MARC, it’s $6, and then another $12 or so for a cab from Union Station (because the Metro’s stopped running by then), the extra outlay isn’t so bad.

  • Buck Turgidson

    In the rest of the First World, you can almost always count on finding a direct downtown-to-airport bus or train service, one that runs frequently and at all times the airport is open. In the USA, not so much — it’s pretty much taxis or private shuttles, or some ungodly multi-leg journey incomprehensible to a jet-lagged out-of-towner. In that respect (and many others), we are more like a Third World nation.

  • Anonymous

    a warning about flying out of BWI, the B30 gets really overcrowded around holidays and can fill up before everyone gets on it. so give yourself enough time to be able to miss a bus and still catch you plane or the last metro home. a cab to Greenbelt metro from BWI cost me $60!!

  • LJ

    I fly out of BWI a lot since SW is the only airline that has reasonable flights to Hartford/Springfield (um… w00t?). Anyway. I’ve been burned by Supershuttle WAY too many times to ever do it again. I’ve almost missed outward flights b/c the shuttle drivers have waited 15-20 minutes for other passengers (at multiple stops) several times, and on homeward trips, it can take HOURS to get home, even once you’re in the city. I’ve been dragged all over hell and gone too many times. So, yeah, caveat emptor on the Supershuttle. I just ensure that my flights get in early enough to use Metro or budget for the cab…

  • Dood.

    I used to have to take the bus from the Greenbelt metro to work and Metro was extremely responsive to my complaints. The bus arrived early/never showed a few times and made me late to work and a single call fixed the problem for at least six months. After a while it would get sloppy again and I would call again, and it ran perfectly for the next couple of months after that.

  • bogfrog

    According to Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation, the big 3 lobbied to have street car lines and other public transit removed in the US.

    Times have changed. I think the new H street line and the one on Edinburgh’s Princes St are neck and neck as to which will finish first!


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