Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
Virginia Railway Express Ticketing
The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is a commuter train rail line operating between Washington, DC and northern Virginia. As an option for travelers, it is a far distant third to using the Amtrak and MARC commuter trains. However, in a pinch to avoid local traffic, the VRE may be a travelerís best alternative. When purchasing tickets, there are several convenient options.
Buying tickets online from CommuterDirect.com is primarily for regular commuters who use the VRE on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. They can order the tickets online in advance and have their purchases mailed. Daily or weekly passengers must buy their tickets in person either with a credit card at a station vending machine or with cash or credit at a sales outlet. The outlets are located all along the Manassas and Fredericksburg lines in addition to locations in Washington, DC. However, unless you are already familiar with where to buy them, locating the outlet will be difficult.
At Union Station, for example, it might seem logical to visit the Amtrak sales desk for VRE tickets since this is also the place where you would buy MARC tickets. However, to purchase VRE tickets, you must visit the Gray Lines Tour Bus kiosk in the first floor garage. Other locations include coffee shops, convenience stores, and gift shops. For a complete list of locations, visit the VRE offsite vendor list at www.vre.org/service/vendor.htm. On the website, you will find information about purchasing tickets at a discounted price through the SmartBenefits program, but this option is available only to employees of area businesses.
When you are ready to buy your ticket, you will have a number of options. For vacation travelers, the best options are the ten-ride, single ride (one-way), and two-ride (roundtrip) tickets. The ten-ride ticket allows you 5 round trips that you can take at any time during the course of a year. This makes it better than a weekly pass because it gives you the flexibility to travel between DC and Virginia during your travels while not being limited to it. You may decide at the start of your trip that you want to visit DC every day; with a weekly pass (the alternative to a ten-ride), you definitely will go to DC every day. With a ten-trip, you have the option to take a trip during one visit to the area and saving your pass for another visit later. If you expect costs to rise, this will help you lock in a lower rate.
The single ride and two-ride tickets are the VRE one-way and roundtrip tickets. Depending on how you plan to divide your time in the area, one or the other option may be better for you.
One last ticket option that may be of interest to some travelers is the Amtrak Step-Up Ticket. It allows VRE patrons with a multiride ticket to upgrade to an Amtrak trip for $10.00. However, given VRE reliability and scheduling woes, if you think you might end up taking an Amtrak train, it is better to simply book with them directly. You may pay more, but you will save yourself time and get a huge helping of convenience in return.
* No complimentary tickets were provided by VRE.