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Over the past two years, a good day for Washingtonian Em Hall would go something like this:
"I might take the 80 downtown, then catch the 40 up to the G2 and go over to Georgetown, and then catch the 30 and head up to Chevy Chase, then get on the Red Line and come back and hop on the H3 and then I'm back in my neighborhood."
Because in February 2010, the Bloomingdale resident set out to ride every Metrobus line, and visit every Metrorail station, and share her adventures on her aptly titled blog, Metro-Venture. Hall works full-time at Zipcar in downtown D.C., so she's been sneaking in her Metro-Ventures mostly on the weekends.
"I don't ride the whole length of every line," she says. "I try to get in as much as possible that doesn't overlap with another line, or that's a new place."
Hall began her Metro-Venture after the blizzard of 2010, when her usual bus, the G-2, was snowed out of commission. The Indiana native has never owned a car; she's a fierce advocate of public transit. But on that blustery day she realized she had no clue how to get where she needed to go.
"You get sort of an abstract map on Metro's website, and sort of arrival and departure times. But, I think I was like, 'Does it really go where I need it to?' 'What's the scene like?' 'Is it going to be okay for me to get there on this bus?'"
So, she decided to find out, and blog about it, starting with nearby buses and trains, and then moving farther out. For one thing, she thought it'd be a great way to explore her adopted region. Besides that, she figured each Metro-Venture could help her "understand why this is the public transit system everybody loves to hate."
"The Metro crowd is very active, both the lovers and the haters," Hall explains. "And then people like me, who try to be fairly unvarnished and unbiased. I'm not out to bash Metro, but I'm not out to be an apologist for it, either."
Hall's blog posts are colorful and full of whimsy; you can tell she has a background as an improv comic. But as she describes each Metro experience, she rates it on a scale of one to 10, using a handful of criteria, including "ridership," "pros and cons" and "nearby and noteworthy."
"And then I always do like a little Metro News Recap at the bottom," she adds, "which is just like a little record for me. A historical record."
Metro-Venture has become more than just a record or ratings site. It's kind of become an advice column.
"One woman [wrote in and] was like, 'my family's coming in to town, we don't know which Yellow Line station to stay at. Can you tell us? We were reading your blog, and it seemed like Huntington would be a good option.' And I was like, 'Yeah! Actually, it would be!'"
Hall says she gets about 4,000 hits a month on her blog, and with so many people using it as a resource, she says she hopes to make Metro-Venture more interactive.
"People could contribute their own stories or experiences or tips," she says "I just haven't sort of taken it to that level of being like a Wiki or something. Maybe I'll migrate the data or something, and make it more useful that way."
And that migration could happen sooner rather than later, because after a little over two years, Hall's schedule will free up a bit, as Metro-Venture goes on hiatus.
"It will be really weird not to do it anymore, but at this point it's really hard to get out that far away from the city," she explains. "I have to block out two to three hours of time on a weekend to try to get in even one station.
"And it's actually kind of a good time to be wrapping up and laying low because with this Capital Improvement Project, it's hard to get places sometimes on the weekends! I mean, they're even doing weekday track work now. So I'll be happy to stick to my usual bus route to and from the office!"
In the meantime, though, Hall says she loves how much she's learned from her Metro-Venture.
Like how the Morgan Boulevard Metro station is, quote, "gorgeous," even if its lack of bus service made Hall give it just an "8." And how the 32-36 bus line, which stops at Eastern Market, the Botanical Gardens and the National Cathedral, is ideal "for a rainy day of sightseeing." And she's learned how, unlike in all the other quadrants in D.C. the streets in Northeast go all the way out to the 60s.
Above all, the Hoosier-turned-Washingtonian says she's learned that when it comes to public transit, here in the D.C., region we're actually pretty lucky.
"There's no Metro system anywhere in Indiana," Hall says. "And my folks come out, we hop on the bus, we hop on the train. And so part of the blog, too, is to say, 'Hey, guys, I know it's easy to complain about hot cars, or late buses, but we do kinda have it pretty good with this.'"
[Music: "Go" by The Apples in Stereo from The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone]