D.C.'s transportation troubles may prove profitable for two enterprising Bethesda residents.
Brandon Yu and Alex Middel launched a new shuttle service, the DC Hopper, promising a fun minibus ride to D.C. nightlife for Bethesda residents tired of dealing with an unreliable Metro or costly cabs.
The duo dreamt up the idea for a shuttle, they said, after growing frustrated with Metro's inconsistent service and long weekend wait times and tired of cab drivers refusing to take them all the way to Bethesda or charging illegally high rates.
Metro's weekend train service has been repeatedly disrupted between the District and Bethesda by track work. But Yu said that single-tracking isn't the only problem.
"Walking to the Metro isn't a good idea," he said. "It's just kind of out of the way for the good downtown bars."
And while it's technically illegal for cabbies to refuse anyone a ride in D.C., Yu said he's had it happen when he's told them his destination is Bethesda.
"As you approach a taxi and the bars are closing and there's a scramble to get a cab, they'll roll down their windows slightly and ask where are you going," he said. Tell them Bethesda and the cabbies either pull away or turn off their meters so they can charge a higher rate, he said.
The new shuttle service stops in Bethesda, Dupont Circle and Georgetown between 9 p.m. and 3:15 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and costs $24 per person one-way between the suburb and D.C. A couple can go for $20 a person, and parties of three or more are $16 a person.
The DC Hopper also partners with Georgetown and Dupont Circle bars to give their riders special discounts on cover charges or allow them to cut in front of lines.
Yu and Middel think the bonuses will be a big draw for customers.
Yu recalled one rider telling him, "Just the fact that I don't have to wait in line at Public Bar and I can get a free shot, it's worth it to me to ride the DC Hopper."
The shuttle had 100 riders its first weekend, the two men said. As the idea catches on, they hope to expand the service to more bars, more suburbs and more D.C. nightlife hot spots.
"Our grand vision is to kind of be the nightlife shuttle service to connect every nightlife area in the D.C. area," Yu said. "We envision branching out to Arlington, Clarendon, H Street, U Street."