A history of crossing the Potomac River between Alexandria and the Maryland side would include boats, ferries and the Wilson Bridge. Nightmarish backups eventually occurred with the first incarnation of the mile-long span before the new one separated local and through traffic and eased the pain of commuters and travelers.
A new era of getting across the Potomac at this point was ushered in two Sundays ago with the debut of the NH2 Metro bus service between the Huntington Metro station (Yellow Line) and National Harbor in Prince George’s County.
Running every 30 minutes, 5 am to 1 am, seven days a week, the bus makes in between stops at the King Street Metro station and the Oxon Hill Park & Ride (no Metro).
We decided to check out the new service yesterday. On time, a shiny new bus pulled up to Bay C on the lower side of the Huntington Station at 6:55 a.m. (There are Metro buses on the top side (North Kings Highway), but the pick up point for the NH2 is on the Huntington Avenue side).
One person, William, who lives in Huntington and works near National Harbor, waited with me. I asked him about the service. He was very pleased. Previously he took Metro trains — Huntington to L’Enfant Plaza to Southern Avenue — and then the bus. He said the new route saves him time and money.
For those of you not familiar with the lay of the land, it’s worth comparing the route he used to take and the one now. The only way to get across the Potomac at this point on public transportation was a route shaped like a horseshoe. The new way is more or less a straight line with a few loops on each end. The old way also involved two transfers and the inevitable snafus. Distance-wise it’s a dozen miles versus just two.
Note: Several years ago, Metro offered this service but it was discontinued due to lack of use.
A check of Metro’s website using A.M. times shows the former route taking about an hour and costing $4.65. The new way takes 30 minutes and costs $1.75. Doubling the cost for a round trip shows a daily savings of $5.80 ($9.30 versus $3.50) and a weekly savings of almost thirty bucks.
The first and only stop on the Virginia side is the King Street Station in Old Town, which we reached on-time via Huntington Ave-Telegraph Road-Duke Street.
Four people got on there. One of them said he lives in Dupont Circle and manages a restaurant at National Harbor. Even though his prior way - Red Line to Green Line to Southern Avenue, and then the NH1 bus to National Harbor — is faster for the crow, the new service is overall quicker (the NH1 route has several stops on its way).
After the King Street stop, we got on the slip ramp just east of Eisenhower Metro. I enjoyed this part of the trip the most. We avoided traffic and zipping over the bridge on a new bus was pretty cool.
It should be noted that taking this way to National Harbor puts you on the “Thru Lanes,” which do not have access to National Harbor’s first exit. It works for the NH1 bus route, however, since the bus makes a stop at the Oxon Hill Park & Ride (Bus Only), and then works its way back to National Harbor.
Everything went smooth except for one slowdown. On National Avenue, we hit traffic on the way past the MGM Casino (opens in December). One lane was closed due to new paving. No one on the bus seemed worried (one person was doing a puzzle, and the other three had plugs in their ears). This back up delayed us by about five minutes. My previous trips on this road did not see any problems, so I do believe the clog was a temporary one caused by the lane closure.
A few minutes later, the bus rolled into National Harbor, stopping on a requested stop on Waterfront Boulevard. It then made its final stop on St. George’s Boulevard. Five folks were waiting there, but they hopped on the DC Trolley (confusingly named Old Town trolley!).
After a coffee and egg sandwich at Harbor Cafe, I walked around a bit and then caught the return bus at the optional stop. The bus was ten minutes off time, but it worked for me, as I only waited four minutes. When it reached the St. George’s Boulevard stop, the operator waited about ten minutes to get back on schedule. Only one person got on.
The return ride went smoother with no delays.
National Harbor has come a long from a dream Milt Peterson had decades ago. Cher recently signed on for a couple of week-long stands.
Not sure if William can afford the tickets, but then again, he is saving money.