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Alternatives to commuting into DC


Spaceman Spiff

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I was talking to some friends that are thinking about starting a company. One of them lives in the Bethesda area, the other lives in Arlington. They're looking at office space in DC because they feel that it's centrally located so that if they have to hire in the future, it'll be appealing to anyone that might consider working there.

They asked what I thought and I told them that I don't think anyone really enjoys the commute into DC, via driving or Metro. If you drive, you have heavy traffic and then you have the issue of parking in DC when you get there, which is costly. If you take the Metro, it's always running late, fares are constantly increasing (follow @unsuckdcmetro on twitter).

I understand the perspective of wanting to be centrally located, so I was thinking the McLean area would be ideal. It's west of the city, people from Bethesda/Rockville/270 corridor can get there, although I'm not sure of the beltway traffic headed that way in the morning. People in Northern VA areas such as Arlington, Vienna, Reston would probably think it's a better commute, too.

Given the situation, what would be a good commute?

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I think the first question is what kind of business is it. What will be most convenient not to the employees, but the customers or clients?

Good question. I don't want to get into the specifics, but it's sales. There won't be any customers/clients coming in the door or anything like that, so there's no need to consider setting up meetings, etc.

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Why not run it out of someone's house then? I mean, not for nothing, but McLean isn't exactly cheap, and there's two sections. Do you mean Tyson's Corner-McLean, where there's tons of office space that isn't cheap, or town of McLean, where there isn't very much office space and it is still expensive?

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Okay, if that's the case. I would go for cheap versus centrality. Something that can bring down the overhead as low as you can while you are trying to get the business humming. Those first few years are typically rough and a couple thousand this way or that can sometimes make a difference.

If the address might mean something to the clientele, I knew of a few businesses that were housed in Gaithersburg because it was cheaper, but bought a Georgetown Post Office Box so that it had the right "location" to people impressed by those types of things.

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Good question. I don't want to get into the specifics, but it's sales. There won't be any customers/clients coming in the door or anything like that, so there's no need to consider setting up meetings, etc.

In that case I'd say remote working would be the way to go. It sounds like there is no reason to have a central office. Especially with the quality of video conferencing now. That could also be a huge draw to potential employees, particularly if they are currently dealing with a 1.5 hour commute. Plus no need to shell out big money for DC office space.

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In that case I'd say remote working would be the way to go. It sounds like there is no reason to have a central office. Especially with the quality of video conferencing now. That could also be a huge draw to potential employees, particularly if they are currently dealing with a 1.5 hour commute. Plus no need to shell out big money for DC office space.

Bingo. If it's sales, you don't need a warm body in an office. You can do that from your bedroom in your pajama's.

Telework is the way to go - just rent a "virtual" office somewhere in Bethesda or Georgetown for a few hundred a month, and go from there.

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Haha it looks like I should have been very clear from the start! ;)

They've worked out of a basement before. They've grown the business and are looking to add head count. Working from home for them and potential employees could be a possibility in the future but they want to grow a team and build a business.

So, in short, office space will happen for them, it's non negotiable.

Back to the question, is it a bad commute for Marylanders to come down to McLean/falls church?

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Crossing the bridge is always a crap shoot during rush hour. Being as close to 495 as you can will help because the side roads can add another 15 minutes for a mile or so too due to congestion.

All I can suggest is check out the delays posted on WTOP's website during the am and pm rush hours for a few weeks to get a feeling for it.

Even if you are going to have people in the office most of the time, you may well find that they want to work odd hours to beat the traffic, such as a work from home until 10am, or head out early afternoon.

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Check google maps during rush hour for the next few days and you can get an idea of the traffic situation. I take 270S every morning from Germantown to Rockville and it can be a real ***** once you get past the exit for 370/200, so I can only imagine how awful it is beyond that. I'm not sure about the outer loop of the beltway at that point, but it is definitely a real ***** up until the 270 spur.

For anyone coming from NW DC or PG County or beyond, it would be absolutely unbearable.

Then again, there are millions of highly educated and experienced people across the DC metro. I'm pretty sure wherever you are located, you will be convenient enough to some talented potential hires. Plus, people here are ****ing crazy. I commuted for 6 months from Annapolis to Rockville, and I had a coworker who used to commute from Olney to Tyson's.

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Check google maps during rush hour for the next few days and you can get an idea of the traffic situation. I take 270S every morning from Germantown to Rockville and it can be a real ***** once you get past the exit for 370/200, so I can only imagine how awful it is beyond that. I'm not sure about the outer loop of the beltway at that point, but it is definitely a real ***** up until the 270 spur.

.

Tell me about it. It's like dying a slow death, over and over again. I work in Bowie.

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I used to live in Silver Spring and commute to Tysons...it sucks. The train takes even longer from that area sometimes.

I get that companies want a home base ...but as a budding business that doesn't need an office it is silly. Working from home is much more appealing than having a home base. Everyone loves that.

I would save the money at this point, and continue to build until it was a cost that fit in with needs.

Do they actually need an office that people need to commute to ? I would be annoyed if I had to drive in everyday for something I could do at home 90% of the time.

Save the money for when you need meeting a face to face and rent a space. Use the technology available to not spend that money and still be effective.

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Agree with what everyone has said. I live in Bethesda and commute 3 days a week into downtown and 2 days a week to Fairfax. Both commutes are lousy. Going from Bethesda into the city (Children's Hospital - near Howard Univ/Union Station area) takes ~45 minutes each way. Going to Fairfax is pretty fast (~20 minutes) in the morning (I go pretty early) but going home in rush hour is brutal (routinely >1 hour), especially across the bridge. If you don't need a place in the city or in McLean for customer reasons, go out rather than in and save your money. It will be an easier commute to go from bethesda to Gaithersburg (or somewhere like that) - against rush hour volume.

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Haha it looks like I should have been very clear from the start! ;)

They've worked out of a basement before. They've grown the business and are looking to add head count. Working from home for them and potential employees could be a possibility in the future but they want to grow a team and build a business.

So, in short, office space will happen for them, it's non negotiable.

Back to the question, is it a bad commute for Marylanders to come down to McLean/falls church?

My experience with the McLean/Tysons area is that it doesn't always suck to get there, but once you're in Tysons you can count on being in your car for 15-20 more minutes. Same with exiting the area. It's just so packed and congested.

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A home based business could really be the answer here. Think about each and every employee will more than likely have a computer that was built in the past 5 years which means it will have a built in webcam and microphone and skype is free. Not to mention the fact that Office is now cloud based so there really is no need for an office space. They could really start something that revolutionizes how companies do business.

Besides unless you want to pay for the express lanes anyone coming from the Woodrow Wilson and beyond into Mcclean after 6:00am will be in their car for AT LEAST an hour before they even exit. That isn't even counting how deep the office is in Mcclean/Tysons.

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I've been supporting people remotely most of my proposal life, about 30 years. Some was support for offices in other states than my office. I have had a fully equipped home office (computer with backup server, laser printer, scanner, up to date software etc.) for many years now since I've been a self-employed consultant. I currently provide service to an Alaskan native corporation, have never met any of the people there, nor have I traveled to their site. It all works very well.

To set up:

1. Put your money into technology instead of office space, it's more cost effective. If you need face to face meetings, you can use Skype and other con call technology.

2. For possible face to face meetings, scout out restaurants that aren't busy during off hours. Maybe you can find one that has a separate room that you can rent for a few hours. You'll have access to coffee and maybe snacks if necessary.

3. If you plan to have a home office, you can deduct that as an expense on your taxes. One caveat: if you own your home and don't rent, the deduction will come into play when you sell your house, so research the so-called benefits of this deduction before you take it. I myself do not take a home office deduction.

4. Make sure you have sufficient backup. You can take advantage of cloud technology companies, but I'm not sure how secure they are with data. If you will be handling non-disclosure type data, get a backup server instead. If you want to know more about this, PM me.

5. Some companies don't want employees to telecommute because they aren't able to micromanage as well. Make sure to hire people who are self-motivated and can manage their time effectively on their own. Make a job plan that outlines duties and responsibilities, and make sure they meet deadlines. I don't know if MD is an "at will" state, but VA is. That means that if an employee isn't performing as agreed and expected, then you can fire them "at will" and you don't have to go through all the documentation HR stuff. So look into where you will incorporate. I hope they have good corporate attorney and CPA to set up the corporation properly.

That's all I can think of now. Best of luck!

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Haha it looks like I should have been very clear from the start! ;)

They've worked out of a basement before. They've grown the business and are looking to add head count. Working from home for them and potential employees could be a possibility in the future but they want to grow a team and build a business.

So, in short, office space will happen for them, it's non negotiable.

Back to the question, is it a bad commute for Marylanders to come down to McLean/falls church?

I live in mclean. it seems like it SUCKS trying to get here in the morning, across the bridge from MD (the whole line of people trying to get out onto the dulles corridor just ties up everything between the toll roal and 270, i think... but i don't KNOW because i would never get on that stretch of the beltway during rush hour under almost any circumstance :)

and if you are going into Tysons, then you have a whole 'nuther world of suck waiting for you when you get there. that one ebbs and flows, but commuting within the tysons metropex is a nightmare, until further notice (i live less than 5 miles from that mess... but again, only go in if i absolutely have to, say if somebody is dying of cancer)

on the other hand, i work down town... and i consider the bike ride downtown (8 months of the year) rather nice and bucolic :)

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