In addition to being the traditional tax day in the US, April 15 marks the day I moved from the Maryland suburbs into the city. Yesterday made it seven years as a District resident for me, so I figured it would be a good time to talk about some of the things that are nice about living here and the things that make living in DC a pain in the ass. We’ll start with the good news. Here’s five things I like about living in Washington, DC:
1. Walkability – My single favorite thing about DC might be that it’s a city that you can easily get around without the need for a car. Even though I haven’t given up my automobile and don’t plan to, it’s just a lot easier to not have to hassle with traffic, parking and the like. Being able to walk to/from work is great. Grocery stores, banks, post offices and other places I might need to run errands? All walkable. Where I live, I can walk to plenty of attractions, bars, restaurants and concert venues as well.
Measures of “walkability” such as those used by walkscore.com generally take transit options into account as well as the literal ability to walk around town. For me here in DC, the Metro and plenty of Metrobus routes are also nearby and can take me most places that I would want to go that might be beyond walking distance. Of course, I still use my car to go to some of these places because it’s quicker and easier, but to give you an idea of how automobile-reliant I am, my car is almost eight years old. It has a shade under 37,000 miles on it, and a third of those came before I moved into town.
2. Jobs – In the general abstract, DC has a relatively healthy supply of jobs thanks in large part to the stability of the federal government. In a sense more applicable to myself, DC is one of the few places where you can get sufficiently regular work to remain employed as a contract attorney. Yeah, I know. That’s not really a great thing, and there’s a lot I hate about being a member of the legal world’s permanent underclass, but it has kept my bills paid, a roof over my head and food on my plate for seven years now, so I won’t complain too much. Right now. About what I’ve done so far. Much.
3. Geography – Admittedly, I don’t go out of town that often, but when I do, DC is located just a quick hop, skip and a jump from so many places I tend to go. Pittsburgh, New York City and the Outer Banks (among other places) are all within about a five hour drive. That makes it easy for me to get places and easy for other folks to swing by and visit me, and either way, that’s good news.
DC’s geography also puts it in a part of the country that typically produces relatively good, seasonal weather. Our summers and winters are a bit warmer than those I grew up with in Pittsburgh, but that’s the way I like it. Unlike the folks out on the west coast or down in Florida who get spectacular weather, we’re not constantly at risk of earthquakes or hurricanes… except for that one week.
4. National Monuments – After awhile, you can kinda get used to it, but it’s still pretty cool when you stroll down Embassy Row or past places like the White House on a daily basis as you walk to work. Every time I go to the grocery store, I’ll see the Washington Monument. Anytime I want, I can easily get down to the National Mall and enjoy the Lincoln or Jefferson Memorials. It’s my backyard and it’s full of national monuments. You won’t get that anywhere else.
5. Big-City Amenities – If you’re looking for something, whether it’s interesting cuisine options, a good selection of concerts, or a group of people who share in some niche interest, you’re a lot more likely to find it in a bigger city. It’s just a matter of numbers. Put eight million people in an area, and you’ll have multiple Burmese food restaurants, you’ll draw all the bands that only play a handful of cities, you’ll be able to join a league for almost any sport you can imagine. Even cities the size of Pittsburgh don’t have as many options as a metropolis like the DC area. To me, it’s not the big sports franchises, the symphony orchestras or other big tourist-type of attractions that distinguish the really big cities from their somewhat-less-big counterparts; it’s the availability of so many of these types of opportunities that might only appeal to a small fraction of the population.