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AyePod Feb 11th 2011 2:32 pm

DC or Baltimore?
 
Hi all! My wife and I are trying to decide where to move to, DC or Baltimore. Chances are, we will both be working in DC, but rent around the area ( DC and Northern VA) is crazy! We looked at Baltimore, a major city with easy transport to DC (we will not have a car, at least at first) and the prices there are much, much better. My question is, has anyone ever had to make the Baltimore-DC commute? Will it drive us absolutely insane, or is it worth saving about $6000 a year on rent?

penguinsix Feb 11th 2011 3:28 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
$6,000 is nothing to be honest. A rounding error in the taxes and commuting costs. That's $500 savings a month for 40-60 hours in a car or train every month.

There are folks who do that commute and the transport options are better than most places I the USA but it isn't quite that simple. Trains are unreliable and traffic rough. By way of comparison there are far more trains from Cambridge to London than there are dc to baltimore Baltimore is quite different than dc culturally too.

Where exactly in dc area are you working?

MarylandNed Feb 11th 2011 3:49 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 

Originally Posted by AyePod (Post 9169583)
Hi all! My wife and I are trying to decide where to move to, DC or Baltimore. Chances are, we will both be working in DC, but rent around the area ( DC and Northern VA) is crazy! We looked at Baltimore, a major city with easy transport to DC (we will not have a car, at least at first) and the prices there are much, much better. My question is, has anyone ever had to make the Baltimore-DC commute? Will it drive us absolutely insane, or is it worth saving about $6000 a year on rent?

I think a driving commute from Baltimore to DC would be rough. The I-95 and I-485 (DC Beltway) interstates can be jammed at times. Without a car, the MARC train is a possibility:

http://mta.maryland.gov/services/mar...nSystemMap.cfm

I live in DC's Maryland suburbs. I used to work in DC near the White House. I took the subway ("Metro") down there from the Shady Grove station. My employer moved to Arlington, VA so now I get to work from home most days.

If you don't have kids, I would consider an apartment in NW DC somewhere along the red Metro line. If you have kids and need a house, I would suggest DC's Maryland suburbs - somewhere within striking distance of the Metro. Montgomery County has a good school system.

penguinsix Feb 11th 2011 3:59 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
Hi

Typing now on a keyboard instead of an iPhone so a bit easier.

DC and Baltimore 'look' close together on a map, but there is a wide gap in distance, economics, and culturally.

First things first--where exactly are you going to be working in the DC area? I ask because "the last miles" of your commute are as important as the "most miles". For example, let's say you were working at Georgetown University, about three miles from the DC train station. It would take you probably an hour to get from Baltimore train station to Union Station in DC. But from Union Station to Georgetown in traffic is another 30-45-60 minutes. To Northern Virginia your transport options are far fewer and time even longer. And it is worth pointing out the MARC Rail between DC and Baltimore is very limited. No weekends or holidays, and frequently there are delays or cancelled trains. Driving it isn't a happy ride either.

Folks do it--many do, but it isn't a cut and dried thing. Most who do it are those who really want to live in Baltimore as they want an urban experience (row houses, etc) or have a spouse working in Baltimore or something like that.

Housing prices in DC are nightmare-ish. Some of the most expensive in the area. What is your budget per month for housing and what are your needs/wants? Primarily--do you need schools? This drastically cuts the city and area into go / no go areas. Same with your tolerance for petty street crime, city life, etc. But understand the streets of Baltimore which might look cheaper on a website also might not have the same offerings as you'll find in a DC neighborhood.

DC is now the economic hub of the area, a change from 30 years ago when Baltimore had the money and DC was just the 'government town'. There are still some odd feelings about that in Baltimore amongst older residents, and Baltimore has fallen on rather tough times of late. DC is quite a bit more cosmopolitan and international--more so than many other US cities. You could have a rolodex full of UK or EU citizens who live in DC whereas it would be quite less diverse in Baltimore. While a bit of a Hollywood exaggeration, the TV show "The Wire" filmed in Baltimore offers a rather harsh look at the lives of the underclass in Baltimore.

So basically where do you plan to work, what is your budget and what type of housing / neigbhorhood are you looking for? Give us a bit of info on these things and some of the locals might be able to push you towards some other options.

p.s. also consider this site:

http://www.city-data.com/forum/washington-dc/

newXgate Feb 11th 2011 5:33 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
I would second the view that living in Baltimore and commuting to DC is probably not worth it.

If you are driving that commute, factor in the extra cost of petrol, and the need for a newer car. Also, bear in mind that insurance in Baltimore City, at least in my experience, can be prohibitively expensive particularly if you are below 30 years old.

Also from a social point of view, Baltimore and DC are different worlds. You may find it hard to participate in social events with your co-workers living that far away.

You can find affordable rents in the suburbs of VA and MD, if you are willing to live out in rather anonymous areas near to the farther out stations on the Metro. Alternatively just bite the bullet and pay for the urban DC lifestyle. It would help to know your age, whether you have children, what kind of lifestyle you are looking for, etc.

SEL_boy Feb 11th 2011 5:46 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
I live in Arlington VA, and work near Dupont Circle in DC.

I would say unless you have a VERY good reason, or REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to live in Baltimore, don't make the live-in-Baltimore/work-in-DC choice.

Yes, Baltimore is a good bit cheaper rent and house-wise than DC and environs -- and I actually prefer it as a town -- but your day to day commuting experience would be just awful.

There isn't enough money in the world that could make that commute worth it (for me)...

IPM Feb 11th 2011 6:15 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
I live in the District and would not recommend any commute involving I-95.

If you don't have any children, find a nice apt in Logan Circle / Dupont Circle and enjoy the city, getting around by foot, bike or Metro.

We have kids and live in Chevy Chase, DC which we really like. One of our offices is out at Tysons Corner, VA, so I have a reverse commute if I have to drive out there, but Beltway (I-495) commute traffic can be bad and the rush "hours" can be long.

Rete Feb 11th 2011 6:20 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
Find it difficult to believe that rents in decent living areas of Baltimore are $500 a month less than a nice apartment in Northern VA. My daughter lived there for 6 years, Reston and then Herndon, and her rents were quite reasonable.

Rete Feb 11th 2011 6:21 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 

Originally Posted by IPM (Post 9170055)
I live in the District and would not recommend any commute involving I-95.

If you don't have any children, find a nice apt in Logan Circle / Dupont Circle and enjoy the city, getting around by foot, bike or Metro.

We have kids and live in Chevy Chase, DC which we really like. One of our offices is out at Tysons Corner, VA, so I have a reverse commute if I have to drive out there, but Beltway (I-495) commute traffic can be bad and the rush "hours" can be long.


Chevy Chase is in Maryland isn't it?

IPM Feb 11th 2011 6:24 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 

Originally Posted by Rete (Post 9170068)
Chevy Chase is in Maryland isn't it?

It's an area that covers both DC and MD

SEL_boy Feb 11th 2011 6:38 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
inna Takoma Park stylee

suburbanmum Feb 11th 2011 6:51 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
I'd also say DC over Baltimore any day.

Close to the Metro, I'd recommend looking at Alexandria. Has to be Old Town though as the rest of the city of Alexandria is well away from the Metro and really urban sprawl spread around part of 495. Yes there are some very expensive (and lovely) houses in Old Town but there's also quite a few condo developments, some of which are rental only. Old Town offers a good range of bars and restaurants as well as being on the yellow and blue Metro lines.

Someone has already mentioned Dupont and Logan Circles. Also worth looking at (depending on how open you are to different areas) are Adams Morgan (more bohemian and can look a bit messy in places) or Columbia Heights just to the north of Adams Morgan.

washsaint Feb 11th 2011 7:45 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
Definitely don't do the Baltimore-Dc commute - it would be hell. I know some people that do this commute and a typical day might include 4-5 hours in a car. That whole 95/495 is a disaster in the mornings and evenings.

Either that or leaving at 5am in the morning.....

Have you thought about the Herndon area? Good links to get around and if you've got kids a good place to bring them up.

SEL_boy Feb 11th 2011 7:50 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
Sounds like a consensus to me...

Don't do it!

Rete Feb 11th 2011 7:57 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 

Originally Posted by IPM (Post 9170071)
It's an area that covers both DC and MD


Covers as meaning there is a Chevy Chase, Maryland and a Chevy Chase, District of Columbus and each have their own local governments?

After researching, the city has two zip codes. One is MD and one is DC. Guess it now goes by who they state taxes to and city if there is one. Here in our area one portion of the city thinks themselves above those who live in "Yonkers" and call their area "Crestwood" which is bounded by Scarsdale. They have their own post office and zip code but they pay Yonkers City taxes.

MarylandNed Feb 11th 2011 10:36 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 

Originally Posted by MarylandNed (Post 9169775)
I think a driving commute from Baltimore to DC would be rough. The I-95 and I-485 (DC Beltway) interstates can be jammed at times.

Oops - meant I-495 (not I-485). One of the biggest parking lots in DC! I agree with those who say that you shouldn't try to live in Baltimore and work in DC. You really would be in for a very painful time. I was going to say a painful life - but life wouldn't be the correct word for that type of existence!

penguinsix Feb 11th 2011 11:37 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
Chevy Chase, MD is a town in Maryland along the northern side of the NW border of DC ('Western Avenue'). It has a small town council though most of the government services are provided by Montgomery County, where it is located (i.e. schools, fire/rescue, etc).

Chevy Chase is a 'neighborhood' in Washington DC. As such the government for that area falls under the District of Columbia municipal government. There are Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners for Chevy Chase DC (zoning advisors, basically) which has some small quasi-powers, but generally the overall governance is done in DC City Hall.

Chevy Chase MD is an extremely expensive place to live. Median incomes around $200,000 or so. The DC side is also pretty expensive.

This is a good map of the various neighborhoods in DC proper.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...rhoods_map.png

Generally West of Rock Creek Park is the most desirable places, with larger homes and less crime. The extreme SE and NE parts of the city tend to have the most crime.

Neighborhoods on the border, like Dupont, Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan have, in recent decades, been gentrified and are quite expensive, but still offer a bit of urban living (restaurants and bars and occasional street crime). In fact parts of Shaw and Columbia Heights on this map are in the transitional phase.

Capitol Hill is also desirable. Quieter than other parts of the city but with an urban edge, many of the Congressman and their staff live in these areas. Eastern Market is one area that is quite popular on the weekends, with a street market that brings people from all over.

It all depends on what the OP is interested in paying and where they are working. Living in DC will result in higher state/local taxes than say Maryland, but lower commuting costs and more nightlife options. There are also areas of the 'suburbs' that are quite urbanized, such as Bethesda MD, Silver Spring, MD, and Roslyn/Arlington, VA (Courthouse, Ballston neighborhoods).

Bladerunner Feb 12th 2011 9:50 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
If you are working near the center of DC and live 15 mins or less from Baltimore Penn station then it may be worth it. The fast train takes just 30 mins to the centre of DC from Bimo.

I like Baltimore. I used to live in Howard County and it was a real hassle getting into town by car, but the light rail is very good if you live near a stop. Also, the central area of Baltimore near the Washington Monument, Mt Vernon, is safe and quite a happening place full of students and alternative types, with lots of bars and restaurants. You can walk to the station from there.

The Baltimore Subway, BTW, does not go near Penn station. The local train (MARC I think) is a good way of getting around Maryland but it takes ages to get to DC. The fast train is the AMTRAK. They don't let you travel without ID.

katybluewater Feb 13th 2011 1:26 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
I live in Vienna, Va - a nice suburb with a good community feel to it. My husband works in Ballston and it only takes him about 15 minutes to drive in on the 50. I definitely wouldnt commute from Baltimore if I were you - your quality of life would suffer as you would be spending most of your day in traffic!
Penguin six gave some great advice about neighbourhoods and nightlife.

AyePod Feb 14th 2011 11:17 am

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
Um...OK...you guys are amazing! Thanks SO much to the people who put so much effort into their replies!
It seems that I was being a bit naive, I pretty much just looked at a map and thought " Well, they ARE close..." without knowing that the beltway is a parking lot. Basically, we are wanting to live in a walkable city with great transport links to and from work, due to the fact that we will not have a car initially. Also, neither of us have jobs yet, but my wife will likely get a job in DC (many non-profits there, and that is what she wants to do). For this, living in DC or northern virginia seemed to fit the bill. However, the rental prices around metro stops are so high, especially if you'd rather not live with rodents! That's why we started looking to Baltimore, it seemed cheaper to live in nice accommodations, and I think there is a train between the 2 cities. I guess from what you guys say it would be a soul-draining experience if one of us had to commute to DC every day. Unless we both get a job in Baltimore, it sounds like it would be grim living there and working in DC

penguinsix Feb 14th 2011 2:43 pm

Re: DC or Baltimore?
 
Hi,

I hate to be the bearer of even more bad news, but I strongly recommend reading this article from the Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...110102675.html

This article talks about the fact that yes, there are tons of non-profits here, but the competition for working with them is fierce, and in many cases folks with advanced degrees and experience are taking positions that pay barely subsistence wages, let alone anything decent. Simply coming to DC to look for a job is done, frequently, but the wait can be months and the hit to your savings can be substantial.

Once you have a job is really when you start to look for a living arrangement. Given the rather rough traffic flow in the area, generally it makes more sense to live near your job, or if you are saving on money, live in a place where getting to your job is not impossible. For example the close-in suburb of Silver Spring--somewhat moderate in price, walkable, etc. would pose quite a commuting challenge on your if you were working in say Old Town Alexandria or Reston, VA, where many jobs are located.

She might want to take a look at this site:

http://bradtraverse.com/

It's the top job site for public policy / non-profit jobs in DC. Costs $5 a month or so but really solid job leads.

DC is a fun place to live and work. Lots of excitement and certainly a few walkable areas with nightlife and entertainment and the whole bit. You just have the problem that everyone who wants the urban living experience wants a nice apartment on top of a metro station in a hip and trendy area, and with tens of thousands of DINK (double income, no kid) professionals pulling in 6 digits each the housing prices are rather steep.


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