After 23 years of living in Alexandria, I had never taken the bus. Until now.
It all started with the new Metroway, on the new bus-only lanes on Route 1 north. I was so excited about the road improvements and that bus line that I had to try it out. So, online I went, to the Dash website, to investigate all the lines. “Why can’t I get a bus straight from Braddock Road Metro to Potomac Yard?!”
I realized that Alexandria has two bus systems! And many more if you stop to count. Two maps. Two websites. Two sets of bus stops. Ridiculous! No self-respecting European city would ever tolerate such a thing. Oh well, colonial back-water that we are — still figuring things out!
My test run to Potomac Yard shopping center on the new Metroway was devine. I was pleased to see a steady stream of people using that bus and the new covered bus stops. Critics claiming the new bus isn’t being used are just wrong.
Recently, I got a new job at Mark Center. I decided to try the bus for the four miles from my house in Rosemont. I studied the two bus systems, Dash and Metrobus. What? No bus from Braddock Road to Mark Center? However, I find that I can walk 15 minutes to King Street Metro and take the Dash AT2, or the Metrobus 28A.
Ridiculous names! Could we lose all the letters, please?! On my first day I found the Dash AT2X or Express to be very convenient — no stops from King Street to Mark Center. They leave every 10 minutes. I can leave my 15-year-old gas-guzzling, 3000-pound Chrysler at home. At Mark Center, right across from my new building, I discover a brand new lovely “bus station.” An assembly place for many lines. I’m pleased. Upon walking around the Mark Center area, I discover a huge bike rack area. My plan to cycle occasionally could work. However, due to construction on the 395-Seminary Road intersection, plus the big hill on Braddock Road, I haven’t done it.
So, the AT2 plan is working. Now with my new busy work schedule, back to the old 9 to 5 routine, I realize we are getting low on toilet paper. Ah ha! The new Bradlee Shopping Center Safeway is on my way! So, I find on my way home I can take the Metrobus 28A. It goes down Braddock Road to the Safeway, right at the Oakland Baptist Church onto King street. I have to catch the bus at the “Southern Towers” apartment blocks across Seminary Road from my building. No problem. The bus is not as timely as Dash, which is to the minute, every day. I’m fretting and my head is cold on a drizzly, chilly, early April day. But five minutes and there it appears. The bus is a bit more cavernous than the cozy Dash bus, but it announces the stops and displays the name, just like on Metro which is reassuring. The Bradlee Shopping Center stop is named Marlee Way for some reason. That should change. Non one’s ever heard of the little alley there called Marlee Way. I get off at the pole-in-the ground bus stop, and dash across five lanes of Braddock Road traffic, through the Safeway parking lot under its building. This world is not meant for the pedestrian. The Safeway is beautiful, big, organic. I dash back out to catch the 5:39 28A bus. There it comes, on the nose. I get to feel smug and holy: I got organic, bulk food, and took the bus to get it, Ellen Hamilton is a graphic designer living in Alexandria, whose studio is called Yellow Dot Designs. She serves on the Alexandria Archaeology Commission.