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Where is DC’s train to the beach?

click to enlarge
Ocean City’s boardwalk, with its tram.

If you live in New York, Philadelphia, or Boston, you can hop onto a commuter rail train any summer weekend and travel to the beach. But not if you live in DC. Here we have no train, and the buses are impractical and expensive.

Let’s compare:

Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority recently launched its Cape Flyer service, from Boston South Station to Cape Cod. A round trip ticket to Hyannis is $35.

New Jersey Transit runs trains from Philadelphia 30th Street Station to Atlantic City for $20 round trip, and from New York Penn Station to the Jersey Shore for $25 round trip. New Yorkers can also take Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station to Montauk for about $40 round trip.

For DC, there is no train, much less an affordable one. There are no tracks directly between DC and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The only track connection is at the very top of Chesapeake Bay, near Wilmington, DE. Amtrak does offer service to Ocean City, but you have to connect to an Amtrak bus at BWI, and it’s $120 for a round trip.

Greyhound also runs buses from DC to Ocean City, but it’s $50-$100 per round trip, depending on how far in advance you buy tickets online.

Building a new rail bridge across Chesapeake Bay is probably not practical. Even if it were, that’s surely not the top priority for limited transit funding. But why not better bus service? Ocean City is a natural transit destination; it’s compact and urban, at least near the boardwalk.

As summer rolls by and Washingtonians head out for weekend jaunts to the beach, how many of us wish we didn’t have to rent a car to get there?

July 8th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: bus, commuterrail, intercity, proposal, question, transportation

  • Randall Myers

    A new bridge to the eastern shore is not out of the question. At some point, Maryland will need to replace the spans so within our lifetimes, maybe, we could have a transit connection. nnnnUntil then, how about an MTA bus? As a kid growing up in Philly, I remember taking the NJ Transit bus to Wildwood, NJ.

  • tipperofcows

    I thought we could get to AC on megabus, but i just looked, and apparently we can’t. Bummer.

  • ERD

    I haven’t tried it but DC2NY has buses from DC to Beaches in Delawarennhttp://www.dc2ny.com/site/modules/schedules/schedules.aspx?route=7&rt=true

  • guest

    If The Tide is extended to VA Beach, you have Amtrak to Norfolk and light rail to the beach. I assume some kind of bus service currently connects Norfolk and VA Beach.

  • Tyler

    DC2NY offers bus rides to Rehoboth and Dewey Beach in Delaware (DC2Beaches). Runs you $60-80 round trip depending on when you book the trip.nnhttp://www.dc2ny.com/nnDC is a lot farther from the ocean than NYC, Philly or Boston — as you know. Hence it costs a lot more, and it’s not as feasible to provide direct rail service.

    • Person who commented

      That’s absurdly expensive. I guess more competition is needed.

    • omaryak

      There used to be train service back in the day, but not anymore. At least a study could be done to see how feasible (or infeasible) it is to restore what we had.

  • Lisa

    The DC2NY bus company runs buses. I’m pretty sure they’re cheaper than greyhound.

  • Joe Fox

    The train might not get all the way to OC (or the Delaware Ocean Beaches), but there was serious talk about running the future HSR line between DC-Phila-NYC across the eastern shore to make life easier for right-of-way issues. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it was cheaper to build a rail bridge across 5 miles of water rather than acquire all that property between DC-Baltimore-Wilmington along I-95.

  • Bill

    DC did have a beach train…for 35 years it ran from the District to the resort community of Chesapeake Beach in northern Calvert County Maryland with several trains a day in each direction. It was the Chesapeake Beach Railway and was built by Otto Mears in the late 1890s.nnIt operated from 1900 -1935 until it went bankrupt, done in by the Great Depression and by the surges in both automobiles and the state roads on which to drive them. nnThe Chesapeak Beach Railway Museum is located in the only surviving CBRW station next to the Rod and Reel restaurant and hotel in Chesapeake Beach.

    • macheko

      they should reopen that train to Chesapeake Beach

  • Mark DeLoatch

    You neglected to mention that the beaches within NYC [Coney Island, Rockaway] are easily reached via Subway. Orchard Beach [Bronx], is a subway-bus connection.nnnIn Boston, beaches at Revere Beach, and Wonderland are accessible via the Blue line from downtown.

  • Logarhythm

    DelDOT is doing (has completed?) a planning study to look at maybe bringing passenger rail service from Wilmington down the Delmarva Peninsula through Dover to Berlin, MD, which is maybe 15 miles or so west of Ocean City, MD. There are existing tracks, not very heavily used, the whole way. They also looked at extending the service on an abandoned ROW from Berlin to West Ocean City. Even with a WOC station you’d still need bus service across the bay because of the prohibitive expense of building a new rail bridge across Assowoman Bay and finding real estate for a new station in OC. But this would get you pretty close.nnSuch a service would be quite circuitous for DC residents but would be fantastic for Wilmington/Philly area beachgoers.

  • Exergy

    I wouldnt say not having a train to the beach is such an embarrassment but not having a rail link with Annapolis is. Baltimore and Washington should be connected to MD’s state capital.nnOnly once that happens can you talk about a line across the bay.

    • omaryak

      Annapolis is on the way to Ocean City anyway. Why not?

  • http://westnorth.com/ Payton Chung

    Yet another instance in which D.C., having largely grown up after the golden age of passenger rail, lacks the regional rail connections that our other “big old city” brethren have. (Other instances include a lack of meaningful mid-day or weekend commuter rail service, a relative paucity of historic suburban downtowns and streetcar suburbia, and no commuter rail trunk lines in several directions.)nnnCompounding this lack of rail ROW is our relative distance from the beach. That was a remarkable act of foresight on G.W.’s part — it means we’re relatively sheltered from hurricanes — but even though we get sea water here, the marshy asteroid-shaped Bay doesn’t have sandy beaches.

  • Alan

    Sounds lovely but DC isn’t a coastal city like NYC or Boston. NYC even has Coney Island/Rockaways inside the city limits though it would be a hike from say the Bronx. Philly is a better example, they just happen to be subsidised by the casino industry in Atlantic City not to mention a shorter distance from the shore.

    • omaryak

      Too far? Since when was that a problem for Americans? Imagine if our forefathers had said that about the Panama Canal, or the transcontinental railroad, or the Hoover Dam. We’re not done settling this continent yet; let’s keep going!

    • Walter Sobchak

      The Subway ride from the Grand Concourse in the Bronx to Coney Island is a bit over an hour, though transferring to the Rockaways would take a bit more. Not too bad of a trip, actually.

  • macheko

    How about reopening the train to Chesapeake Beach?



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