News & Politics

The Metro Meltdown Made Us Commute Via Scooter and It Wasn’t Great

The five-mile trip from Ballston to Foggy Bottom cost as much as a rideshare and took an hour.

The walk of shame. All photos by Kalina Newman.

Where were you when you got the news WMATA took most of its trains out of service? As an Arlingtonian and graduate student at George Washington University, I was at home silently cursing the axles on the 7000-series trains for ruining my commute. 

That’s why, with trains severely delayed, buses overcrowded, and rideshare prices skyrocketing, I decided to make the five-mile trip from Ballston to Foggy Bottom on a Bird e-scooter and document the ride. (Full disclosure: I, someone who has never won any sort of giveaway or sweepstakes before in my life, won $500 in Bird scooter ride credits in July. As of October 21, I haven’t made much of a dent in it.) I usually ride the train, which takes around 15 minutes if everything goes my way.   

5:00 PM: I leave my apartment for my 6:10 class, helmet in hand, trying to shake the feeling of looking like a dweeb. But in the words of my boyfriend, “What’s worse: Looking like a dweeb or a traumatic brain injury?” 

5:15: I walk three blocks to find a scooter with half its battery left. I strap on my helmet and smile sheepishly at a man walking his dog who I nearly run over trying to get the scooter to start. “I’m going to ride this into DC,” I tell him. He gives me a polite smile. 

5:22: I reach Clarendon and spot another scooter rider who’s wearing a helmet. I try to give him an encouraging smile, like we’re the ones who really understand road safety, but he ignores me. The scooter can get up to a decently fast 15 MPH, but so far my biggest complaint is how long it takes to get back up to speed after I stop. My choices are either endure aggressive honking from cars when it takes me 30 seconds to start it up again or run through red lights and risk not making it to class in one piece. 

5:29: I approach Key Bridge. Flying down Rosslyn’s hilly streets, I become increasingly thankful for my helmet. Someone guns their engine behind me when I struggle to get the scooter going again at a stop light. 

Newman, ready to roll.

5:31: Not ten feet from Key Bridge, my scooter begins to slow itself. Key Bridge is a no-ride zone for scooters. I’ve done plenty of walks of shame before, and this feels pretty familiar. The smirks from cyclists and puzzled looks from well-dressed tourists are something else—why didn’t I just dump the scooter on the side of the road with all of its fallen brethren and find another on the other side? But I am determined to do this all in one go, and am quickly approaching the point where if I take the rest of the journey on foot, I will be late. 

5:50: I am across the bridge, incredibly sweaty, and have 20 minutes to travel the remaining 20 blocks. I notice immediately that my speed is now capped at 10 MPH. It feels unbearably slow. Going down M Street, I also realize I am racing the same Metrobus I often take to get into the city.

6:00: The bus comes to a stop at Washington Circle, and I nearly collide with someone getting off. I’m also wearing a Peloton-branded backpack and feel like an insufferable caricature of a millennial. But: I’m nearly to class! 

6:05: I make it with five minutes to spare. Would I do this again? Maybe if I had no other choice. The price ends up being around what a rideshare would have cost me, but far more expensive than the Metro or a bus. Nevertheless, after this I still have $382 to spend on Bird scooter rides. 

Total cost: $17.25, originally $21.70 with random 25 percent discount I got when I opened the app

Total time: Roughly one hour

Experience ranked from 1000 to 7000-series Metro train: I’d give it a 3000-series train, but with stain-free seats and air conditioning 

From Arlington…
…to DC.

Kalina Newman
Editorial Fellow

Kalina Newman is an editorial fellow for Washingtonian. Previously, she covered metro news for the Boston Globe. Her work has appeared in ARLnow, DCist, and the Washington City Paper. Kalina graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a degree in journalism.