When many travelers come to Washington DC, they’ll often include a trip to Arlington, Virginia to see popular attractions like the Arlington National Cemetery, US Marine Corps War Memorial and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. But the nearby City of Alexandria definitely shouldn’t be overlooked as a side trip from the nation’s capital or better yet, as an extended vacation destination. The following are public transportation options between the nation’s capital and easily one of the very best small cities in America.
There are several ways to get to Alexandria from Washington DC and perhaps the easiest way is with the Metrorail system, a part of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA or simply Metro), which operates six color-coded rail lines. Of those six, the Blue and Yellow lines offers efficient service to Alexandria, with four Metro stations including the King St.-Old Town station in the heart of the city.
However, all of Alexandria’s Metro stations will be closed for major renovations during the critical summer months from Friday, May 25-Monday, September 2.
Metrorail Summer Shuttle Service
To meet the transportation demands for one of the busiest times of the year for visitors and residents alike, a free shuttle service will be available to and from the Crystal City station via the Blue Line or Yellow Line Shuttles. According to DC Metro, shuttle buses will run every five minutes during the rush hours and every 10 minutes during the midday hours, although the Blue Shuttle will run every 10-12 minutes during the midday hours.
Both the Blue and Yellow Line shuttles operate Monday-Thursday from 4:30 am to 12 am and Fridays from 4:30 am to 1:30 am. On Saturdays both shuttles run from 6:30 am to 1:30 am while Sunday service begins an hour later at 7:30 am and runs until 11:30 pm.
Please note that for travelers Alexandria headed to Reagan National Airport must take the Blue Line shuttle only as the Yellow Line shuttles will not serve the National Airport. However, the Blue Line will not make a stop at the Braddock Road station in Alexandria.
Additional shuttle service will also be available to Springfield and Arlington, Virginia.
Peak SmarTrip fares on Metrorail are $2.25 minimum and $6 maximum and $2 minimum and $3.85 maximum during off peak hours. Peak hours are from when service begins until 9:30 am and between 3 pm and 6 pm. Fares and SmarTrip cards may be purchased at vending machines at Metrorail stations and online, as well as at Metro sales offices, commuter stores and retail outlets.
For more information on fares, timetables and routes, please visit the Metrorail website. For travel options for both Metrorail and Metrobus during the Platform Improvement Project, visit the Alternative Travel Options website or the Visit Alexandria website here and here. Online information may be subject to change.
For visitors who have little or no experience using a public bus service, the Metro Bus system may not be a viable option. Moreover, there is no direct public bus service between Alexandria and Washington DC. The closest connection would be between Alexandria and Pentagon City on routes 10A or 10E and 10N for evening service, in addition to bus service to the Rosslyn Metro station via route 10E. From Pentagon City, visitors can then connect with either the Blue or Yellow Metrorail lines and at the Rosslyn stations, visitors an connect to either the Blue or Orange Lines. Basic fare for Metrobus is $2 using a SmarTrip card or cash and express bus fare is $4.25. For seniors and people with disabilities, the basic fare is $1 and $2.10 for express bus service. Children ages five and older must pay the regular basic fare and to two children ages four and under may ride free with each adult paying the full fare. Because bus operators do not carry money, visitors are advised to have the exact fare when boarding or use a SmarTrip card available online at any Metro station, or present a Metrobus Pass.
Virginia Railway Express
The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is a commuter railway service that can transport passengers from Alexandria to L’Enfant Plaza and Union Station in Washington DC. The Railway Express operates two rail lines, the Fredericksburg Line and Manassas Line. Because it is a commuter service, departures are more concentrated during the morning and evening commutes while midday service is very limited. However point to point service tends to be very quick, taking about 30 minutes or less in either direction. Fares are determined through zones, with a single ride fare of $6,25 in Zone 2 between Alexandria and Crystal City and Zone 2 day passes are $12.50. Transportation out of Zone 2 will require additional fare. Reduced fare is available for seniors 65 years and older, youths ages 11 and 18 and people with disabilities. Children 10 and under may ride free with a fare paying adult. VRE tickets may be purchased via an online order form, at station vending machines, sales outlets and via the VRA Mobile app for iOS and Android users.
Additional fare information can be found on the VRE website.
The Potomac Riverboat Company operates a convenient water taxi service along the Potomac River that connects the Alexandria City Marina to the District Wharf in the Southwest Waterfront section of Washington DC, as well as to Georgetown. Visitors can take the Wharf Water Taxi to either DC location and adult fare is from $10, seniors $9 and children ages 2-11 from $7. Tickets for the date(s) of travel may be purchased online. According to the Potomac Riverboat Company, it takes 30 minutes in either direction between Alexandria and Georgetown. The company also offers sightseeing cruises, including a Monuments Tour and a Mount Vernon Cruise from Alexandria to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
Metroway is a premium bus service operated by DC Metro. With express service between Pentagon City and the Braddock Street Metrorail station in Alexandria, Metroway is used primarily by commuters who need to travel to and from the Pentagon. However, Metroway can be a nice options, particularly for those desiring public transportation service from the Old Town section of Alexandria, the Pentagon and on to Washington DC. Another Metroway route operates between Crystal City and Potomac Yard, just north of Alexandria. The Braddock to Pentagon City routes runs every 12 minutes during peak and off-peak hours and every 15 minutes in the evening off-peak hours. Fare is $1.75 using a SmarTrip card and .85 for seniors and people with disabilities.