What is the Best Way to Commute Into DC?

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The National Mall


My project is determining the best way to commute into DC specifically, however I tried to make it so it could apply to other cities as well. I used three factors to determine my answer: Time taken based on delays, time taken based on traffic, and CO2 emissions per passenger mile. For my project I will use 5 primary means of transportation: (1) take the bus to the metro, (2) Drive to the Marc and take the Marc to the Metro, (3) Drive to the Metro Station, (4) Drive in, and finally (5) Drive to the Marc and take the Marc in to DC. My starting location is 12300 Chalford Lane, which I chose because it’s right next to a stop on the B22 bus route. The Metro Station is New Carrollton, and the Marc Station is the Bowie State Park and Ride. The finishing location is Union Square because it’s right next to Union Station.

Routes Under Current Conditions

This paragraph covers how long the routes should be under current conditions (including pandemic traffic). The first route, Bus to Metro, is under normal conditions about an hour and three minute trip. It is about 20.54 miles long, with 28 minutes on the bus, and 23 minutes on the Metro Station, with the other 12 minutes spent walking. The second route, Drive to Marc, and then Marc to Metro, takes about 46 minutes, and covers 20.52 miles. The drive to the bus is about 5 minutes, the Marc is about 10 minutes, and then 23 minutes on the metro, with the other 8 minutes spent walking. The third route, Drive to Metro to DC is about 48 minutes total, with 14 minutes spend driving to New Carrolton, 23 minutes on the Metro, and 11 minutes spent walking. The route in total is about 20.48 miles long. The fourth route, Drive to Union Station, is about 31 minutes long. However, due to this being the pandemic traffic levels are significantly reduced, leading to decreased driving times, therefore making driving the best option due to the lack of other cars on the road. The route is about 19.5 miles long. The fifth route is Drive to Marc, and then take the Marc all the way in to Union Station. That takes about 51 minutes, and is about 20.52 miles long.

Bus to Metro (A)63 minute long, 20.54 miles
Drive to Marc to Metro (B)46 minutes long, 20.52 miles
Drive to Metro (C)48 minutes long, 20.48 miles
Drive In (D)31 minutes long (currently based on pandemic traffic levels), 19.5 miles
Drive to Marc (E)51 minutes long, 20.52 miles

Time Based On Delays

My initial way to decide what the best way to commute into DC was based on how badly someone’s schedule would be thrown off based on how late someone would be. For the players choices, A-E, are the five choices in the order in the initial table, and the other choices are A: Normal Time, B: 10 Minute Delay, C: 15 Minute Delay, D: 30 Minute Delay, E: One Hour Delay. Each number is the time taken in minutes.

\/ Player, Other –>A (85%)B (10%)C (3%)D (1.5%)E (0.5%)

Time Based on Increased Capacity

This measures how time will be increased based on increased ridership/traffic specifically at the point of entrance to the method of transportation. For the Metro and Marc that would be the Stations where the player got on the train. For the Bus that would be the bus stop. And for driving that would be increased traffic on the roads. To calculate this I used the carrying capacity of the buses and trains, and measured congestion for the roads. The buses on average have about a 50 person carrying capacity, but it really depends on the bus as it changes. Metro carrying capacity is about 120 people per car, with usually six trains, meaning up to 720 people per metro train. The Marc trains can support about 130 people per car, with usually 3-5 cars and and up to 10 cars at once. The normal congestion rate for DC traffic is about 23%, which I used as the baseline number. 23% means that it takes 23% longer it would if there was no traffic at all. The players A-E is the 5 choices (in order) that was described up at the top. For the other A: Normal Amount of People, B: Increased by 5%, C: Increased by 10%, D: increased by 25%, E: Increased by 50%, and finally F: Increased by 100%. The numbers are time in minutes.

\/ Player, Other –>A (65%)B (20%)C (10%)D (3%)E (1.5%)F (0.5%)
A636363636363 or 93 (Depending on the size of the bus)
B46464646 1/346.6547 1/3
E51515151 1/351.6552 1/3

CO2 Emissions Based On Transportation Method

For CO2 emissions I focused on direct emissions, meaning emissions coming directly from the vehicle itself. Because of this I essentially factored out the Marc and Metro, as they both use third rails (extra rails which supply the train with electricity to power it) meaning that they don’t directly, based on my research, emit any CO2. However, cars and Buses, two large parts of my five commuting options, do release a large amount of CO2, meaning that I could just measure those instead. Based on my research, buses, when only holding one person, on average release about 2.9 lbs. of CO2 per passenger mile. Cars release about 0.89 lbs. of CO2 per passenger mile. For my calculations I assumed the average bus could hold 50 people, and the car could hold 4 people. For the other players A: I said there was one person in the vehicle, for B: 25% capacity, C: 50% capacity, D: 75% capacity, E: 100% capacity. Since for many of these numbers, specifically 75% and 25% the bus had half a person I rounded down to 37 and 12 respectively.

A (0.5%)B (61%)C (30%)D (7.5%)E (1%)


For all of my problems I assumed that each one of the other player options would be chosen randomly a certain percentage of the time, as that is easier than trying to predict the decisions of thousands of people. Because of this I made the normal things, such as regular capacity, times of arrival, etc. the more common ones. For time based on delays, there is no competition, as currently, due to decreased pandemic traffic, the car route is almost always the quickest. Even if we say one option is always chose at random, the car pretty much wins every time, as its faster than every route by at least 15 minutes. However, with increased capacity, it gets a bit more complicated. This time the car wins again. Although the car has the possibility to take much longer, that option happens so rarely that it barely has any affect (All solutions will be below). For CO2 emissions, it is tied between B and E, or Drive to Marc to Metro and Drive to Marc. In close second is Bus to Metro.

Time Based on DelaysDriving In
Time Based on Increased CapacityDriving In
CO2 Emissions Based on Transportation MethodDrive To Marc to Metro, Drive to Marc, Bus to Metro

Feedback Questions

  1. Are there any factors you feel I should have included that I didn’t?
  2. How different do you think the system I chose would be based on location? For example, instead of in the suburbs, in the city.
  3. Do you disagree with any of the conclusions I came to?


Maps | WMATA||WMA_MAG_PG_21x34.indd| |Line Route B22 – WMATA – Bus Schedules | Moovit| |Rail Ridership Data Viewer | WMATA| |Bus Ridership Data Viewer | WMATA| |Washington traffic report | TomTom Traffic Index| |Maryland Transit – MARC Trains Stations | Maryland’s GIS Data Catalog| |Line Route METRORAIL ORANGE LINE – WMATA – Metro Schedules | Moovit| |Emissions from bus travel| |Does Bus Transit Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions? | Reason Foundation| |Average CO2 emissions from new cars and new vans increased again in 2019 — European Environment Agency


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