Posted: February 20, 2007 in House & Garden
Jess and I have a hellish commute. A 40 minute drive on an over-crowded, two-lane road, with bumper-to-bumper traffic that gets worse every year, and will continue to get worse over time. Following this slog is an hour-long subway ride (DC Metro) that can easily run 30-40 minutes longer, like it did this morning. The subway is quite expensive ($4.00 each way, for each of us, plus $4.00 to park the car) and they keep talking about raising that already astronomical fare. The subway trains are old and unreliable, and delays are frequent. On top of all that, you're often packed in like sardines because there aren't many other ways into DC, so the trains are over-crowded.
So the best case scenario for me: 1 hr 30 min. For Jess: 1 he 45 min. Typical though is 1:45 for me, and 2 hrs even for Jess. Work 8 hrs, commute for 4. That's a 12-hour day, and a bit of a pain in the ass. I'm sure some of you have worse, or have had worse in the past, but that doesn't make our commute any more enjoyable.
So we've been exploring alternative living arrangements. Either closer to the subway station, or closer to some other form of transit. Maryland has something called the MARC Train (Maryland Rail Commuter service) that while more expensive than the subway, does offer an alternate. Jess recently rode the MARC Train back from a conference in Baltimore, and found it quite comfy. Unlike the Metro, the MARC train only makes several stops during a trip, and instead of being in underground tunnels, runs on the surface. That makes a nicer ride, but it also offers points of failure from snow, ice, or things blocking the tracks. You can also eat on the MARC, which you can't do on the Metro.
So Jess has started researching homes near MARC stations, and we were quickly drawn to the western portion of our county, most of which has been designated as an agricultural reserve, and being such has severe limits on development. So this means older houses on large parcels, which sounds good to both of us. The development caps also mean that traffic won't double every year, like it's been doing where we live now.
After some Internet searching, we found a pair of houses to look at, so we got ahold of my Best Man/real estate agent/friend Nick, who arranged for a visit. The one we like best so far is a quaint little cape cod in the northwest portion of the county - an area where we're constantly riding our bikes. It's around 2200 square feet, has three floors (one of which is a finished basement), 4 bedrooms, and is on a little under 3 acres of land. It's exactly 3 minutes from the nearest MARC station, and 6 minutes from another station in the opposite direction.
Commute-wise, this would help in a few ways. First and foremost, we'd lose the 40-minute drive to the subway. Second, even thought the MARC train costs more, you don't have to pay the $4.00 for parking, so that offsets some of the cost. Figure in the gas you use up sitting in traffic for 40-50 minutes, and it's probably a wash. Second, the train ride into DC is approx 45 minutes, so we'd be ahead of the game time-wise. Unfortunately, the MARC stops at Union Station in DC, so a short subway ride would still be needed, but only about 15 minutes worth. So my 1:45 typical commute would become 1 hr even.
But the main thing would be getting out of the town house and into a detached, single-family home, on a good chunk of land. We still have more places to look at, but Jess really likes this one. Nice, open, well-lit places, and hardwood floors throughout. We'll have to crunch some numbers and see how things work out.
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