commuting between DC and Baltimore?

I am looking for a job change and was wondering about Baltimore. However, the catch is, most of the places where my wife would likely be able to find work are in DC. So I was wondering how practical it would be for one spouse to work in downtown Baltimore, and the other in downtown DC. Some specific questions:

  1. any Doper couples doing anything like this? How long is the commute between the two cities? I guess it would make sense to live somewhere in between.

  2. is there decent public transportation between the two? Neither of us would really cherish a long car commute if we can help it.

  3. as for Baltimore itself, what’s it like? I used to live an DC and enjoyed the amenities there. How is Baltimore for restaurants, museums, parks, etc?


I’m not a married couple, but I commute from NE Baltimore County to Rockville MD every day. MARC Rail travels between Baltimore and DC and a co worker uses it every day to go from Baltimore to downtown DC. If you lived somewhere in between, you could both take MARC to your jobs.

You can probably get from the Southwest Edge of Baltimore City to the Northeast corner of DC in about 30-35 minutes without traffic.

Of course, if “without traffic” ever happens there, it’s probably because civilization has been wiped out and you will have bigger problems.

ANYWAY, that gives you the scale of the distance. There are tons of smaller towns in between DC & Baltimore that make a commute to either OK, and I know people that do that. (Laurel, Columbia, Ellicott City, Silver Spring, and many more). There’s even places to live that are due west of Baltimore and due North of DC like Mt. Airy, Fredrick, but that might be getting away from Baltimore a little and you’re not going to find any public transportation.

Also, I know people who live in Baltimore and commute all the way to DC (yes, trains run).

Baltimore has plenty of dining, theaters, symphonies, museums, sports, a couple decent, underappreciated parks, etc but it’s nowhere on the scale of a DC, NY or even Philly.

If you’re really looking to live in a city, B-more is going to be more affordable than DC. If you don’t mind slumming it a little, it’s WAY more affordable.

A fellow graduate at my school (in DC) lives in Baltimore with her husband. He also works in DC. They commute everyday by car. Granted she’s a little wacky, but I know she lives in the Baltimore area because she can afford way more house there.

And I love the MARC, when I have to get to Baltimore. Between those two options, I’d suspect you can do this with relatively small headache.

You could do it, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Baltimore isn’t a very happy place to find a job right now. The whole city’s been depressed for years. Sure, there are offices for major companies like Verizon and Wells Fargo, but there’s no real basis for an economy in the city. Restaurants are fair, but I will have to grant that you’ll like the museums there.

If you and your wife live in Annapolis, she could commute to D.C. and you to Baltimore if you have cars, but it won’t be fun (especially for her). However, if you don’t have cars, no trains run through Annapolis. Columbia might actually be a better bet: nice homes, great mall, clean, and fairly good economy.

If you’re really anchored to this area, I’d say live and work in Columbia, and your wife won’t have a horrible commute.

Best advice I can give. Hope it helps.


Thanks. On a related question, are any of these smaller towns ‘interesting’ places to live in their own right? I blanche at the thought of living in featureless suburbia and would prefer to live in a town with a bit of a downtown of its own and perhaps a point of interest or two…

Have you been offered a job in Baltimore? Or are you saying that you’ve just decided to move and, hey, Baltimore might be a nice place to live? Lots of couples, one of who works in Baltimore and one of who works in D.C., live in Baltimore. Lots of such couples live in D.C. Lots of such couples live between D.C. and Baltimore. So if your question is just whether such a commute is possible, well, of course it is. Until each of you has been offered a job somewhere in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area though, your question is rather hard to answer. Lots of couples do just fine with the two of them commuting twenty miles in different directions. Lots of couples do just fine with one living next door to work and the other commuting forty miles. Will that satisfy the two of you? Who knows? This is all a bit vague until you give us more details.

Not in my opinion.

Ellicott City is actually kind of cool. It has a little downtown on a stream, with a lot of antique stores, and then the population lives on the numerous hills that rise out of the city. There are some cool houses on those hills, however the outskirts are definitely going the way of “faceless development”.

Columbia is an entirely planned city, and gets my vote for the most depressing place in America.

Laurel has old and new. But, the “downtown” tends towards chain-like restaurants.

Tacoma Park is a kind of interesting. (do a search here for “filthy, filthy hippies” for a thread on it).

So much of the area is just endless development after endless development. Bedroom communities with little social interaction within the communities, where a trip to the “Olive Garden” or to a bar IN A MALL is your social highlight.

You can avoid featureless suburbia around here. I think most people wind up there because they don’t realize there are options and they don’t want to do the work (“Oh, the guy in the next cubicle lives in Columbia. Can’t go wrong with that.”)

There are communities around the DC beltway that offer more than just bland suburbia. I might call them “old school” sprawl – suburbia from a former era where NOT every house looked the same, and NOT every restaurant was a chain.

Kind of in-between. We were both interested in the DC area, but I saw an opening in B-more, applied, and just got an interview. So now I have to decide whether I actually want to consider it.

Last time we were moving to DC (8 years ago), I had an offer from a small consultancy in Reston. However, the idea of living way out there and working with just 3 other people on the converted first floor of a Victorian house just gave me the creeps. I turned them down and waited for a job downtown and ended up living in Van Ness.

I’m writing from Laurel right now. And it’s pretty faceless suburbia. What counts as old Laurel is rather depressingly dingy to my eyes. But I really don’t worry much about the local landscape when DC, Baltimore, and Annapolis are all so close, and any of them can be a fun evening.

Only Most Dead writes:

> Location: Inside the DC belt


> I’m writing from Laurel right now.

How can you be both in Laurel and inside the Beltway?

Fair question. I haven’t updated the location tag since I lived in Hyattsville. And I work in DC.

Endemic, if you have an engineering degree I know a Government agency in Northern Virginia that would be happy to hire you.

Just to highlight what someone else alluded to, there is no time at which the traffic into/out of DC is not horriffic (and what goes ona round Baltimore is no bed of roses either). “Rush Hour” starts at 5am and continues till 10am, starts again at 3pm and continues till 8pm. Every morning I listen to the traffic report (I enjoy a morning dose of weltschmertz (sp) ) and every single morning there are major accidents, snarls, foulups and general misery on DC’s intake highways, with 15 mile stretches taking an hour or more.

So in my book its MARC or nothing.

I respect many of Trunk’s opinions. I have never lived in Columbia .

Having said all that up front, my immediate reaction to your post was Columbia, Maryland. Simply because I have known 2 couples who have done the DC/Baltimore thing and both lived in Columbia.

When in doubt, you go to the trusted source – in this case the Sheraton which tells us Columbia is about 20 miles from downtown Baltimore and 25 miles from Downtown DC … kidding aside I think that is about right

If you don’t want to do it halfway - I have known many, many people who live in Baltimore and work in DC. They all MARC it. They say with a shrug that it is not so bad. It sounds like a heck of a daily commute to me. I have never met anyone going the other way (I live in MD and worked in DC 8 years – so I had no real opportunity to see the reverse side)

I answered the OP re the DC vs. Baltimore paradigm but one caveat to all this – much, not all but much, of the business and government activity in GreaterDC these days in is Northern Virginia. If you are in Columbia or Baltimore, it will be tough to commute to Suburban MD or DC. (but DC traffic will be “tough” no matter where you live.) However, it would be absolutely brutal to go from Baltimore to NoVa. If your wife lands a job in Virginia and you land one in Baltimore – I would throw out all the above and look at suburban MD or even DC proper as a halfway point (rush hour commute time-wise rather than distance-wise)

My sister commutes from Baltimore to DC everyday. She lives on the north side of Baltimore, drives to Penn Station every morning, takes the MARC train to DC and then the subway to her office. Reverses that commute in the evening.

She leaves her house at an ungodly hour every morning, eats a portable breakfast on the train, and arrives home pretty late every night, has a very quick dinner then goes to bed. She pretty much has no life on weeknights. But she loves her job & loves her house so doesn’t want to give up either. Her husband works in Baltimore.

As a Baltimoron I can’t speak highly enough for the city. As a guy in my early twenties, it’s paradise. You may have different priorities, but I love it. 1,600 bars/liquor stores in the city of Baltimore alone, not including the county. Additionally you have Little Italy, Greektown and the Inner Harbor for dining. The nightlife is wonderful, you have the Oriole’s and Ravens, I go to see the opposition more often than the home team, and during the summer the weather isn’t too shabby. I’ve lived in NOVA for years and it cannot possibly compare to BMORE.

As far as commuting, I know people who do it both ways, one of my friends lives in DC and commutes to Baltimore and I know several others who do the opposite. They all take the train, I cannot imagine driving back and forth.

My ex- and I lived in Silver Spring. MD, when she worked in downtown DC and I was going to grad school in Baltimore–it was a fairly easy commute for both of us, she by the Metro (w/in easy walking distance) and me by bus (we lived near the trailways station in Silver Spring.)

This site is good for information on the various communities around DC (and also the neighborhoods in DC). Check out the profiles on the right side.

Thanks Lute. I wish I was an engineer. No, I chose the rocky path. I’m an economist.