New Employee Guide

Introduction

Working at the BLS national office

Commuting to the BLS national office

Housing in the Washington, DC area

Conclusion


Introduction

Mission statement

BLS EmployeesThe Bureau of Labor Statistics is the principal fact-finding agency for the federal government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics. BLS collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates essential statistical data to the American public, the U.S. Congress, other federal agencies, state and local governments, businesses, labor organizations, and international statistical organizations.

BLS is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The BLS Commissioner is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a 4-year term. The Commissioner’s position is the only politically appointed position at BLS, and all others are civil servants. BLS hires talented individuals from all over the country to produce vital statistics on labor and economics. Close to half are economists, and the next two largest groups are information technology specialists and mathematical statisticians.


About this guide

The BLS New Employee Guide is divided into four sections. Section 1 provides information about the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Postal Square Building (PSB), where you will be working. Section 2 describes commuting options. Section 3 provides information about housing in the Washington area. Section 4 provides miscellaneous references, such as how to register your vehicle, transfer your driver’s license, and so forth. This guide is for your information, and BLS does not endorse any products or services mentioned in it.

We hope you find this guide useful—not just now, but throughout your time at BLS. If you have any comments or suggestions about the content of this guide, please email the Division of Human Resources and Organization Management or call them at (202) 691-6600.

Welcome from the BLS Commissioner

William J. Wiatrowski, Acting Commissioner of Labor Statistics

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You have joined an elite group of economists, statisticians, information technology professionals, administrative specialists, and others. Together, we make BLS the premier statistical agency in the United States—and in the world.

We are the principal fact-finding agency for the federal government in the field of labor economics and statistics. We produce data and analyses that are accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible. We provide essential information to the American public, the Congress, other federal agencies, state and local governments, business, and labor. In fact, our work affects nearly everyone in our nation. I am confident that you will find your work at BLS to be challenging and rewarding. I wish you success and hope you will work with us for many years.

As Commissioner, I see the staff's commitment to quality every single day. It is an honor to work with professionals dedicated to being the best possible stewards of the nation’s data dollars.

Again, welcome aboard!

Bill Wiatrowski, Acting Commissioner of Labor Statistics

How to get to the BLS National office

BLS is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue N.E., Washington, DC, 20212. It is in the Postal Square Building (across from Union Station), where Massachusetts Avenue intersects North Capitol Street and First Street N.E. If you are using Metrorail, take the Red Line to Union Station and use the First Street N.E. exit from the station. New employees without BLS identification (and all visitors) must use the entrance on First Street N.E., directly across from the Metro (subway).

There are times when BLS closes because of inclement weather or other unexpected circumstances. Please go to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website for the latest information about closures. OPM also has a smart phone application called OPM Alert.There are times when BLS closes because of inclement weather or other unexpected circumstances. Please go to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website for the latest information about closures. OPM also has a smart phone application called OPM Alert.

Why people like working at BLS

"It’s rewarding to know that the statistics we work so hard to generate are used to make workplaces safer."
Bill Wiatrowski
Acting Commissioner

"BLS is a great place to work, a place that provides opportunities for every employee to grow and have an impact."
Jack Galvin
Former Deputy Commissioner (retired after 36 years of service)

"We believe in high quality. Our data are of the highest quality and so are our people."
Mark Staniorski
Director of Human Resources

"Working on the various BLS publications and assisting our customers is satisfying."
Michael Levi
Associate Commissioner
Office of Publications

"Working at BLS has allowed me to enhance the economic analysis skills I learned in college and to publish my work."
Terence McMenamin
Economist

"I enjoy interacting with people from many private and public organizations."
Carmen Izaguirre
Secretary

"Working on one of the principal economic indicators, the unemployment rate, is rewarding."
Sandra Mason
Assistant Commissioner for Current Employment Analysis (retired after 42 years of service)

"Providing valuable statistics to customers from all over the country is gratifying."
Patrick Carey
Supervisory Economist

"Working on the Current Employment Statistics survey is challenging and rewarding because I have the opportunity to contribute to the accuracy and timeliness of one the most closely watched economic indicators."
Nicole Hudson
Economist

"BLS has been an excellent place to work, in part, because of the opportunities for skills development."
Sania Khan
Economist

"BLS flexitime and flexiplace policies have allowed me to balance my family and work responsibilities."
Shalom Williams
Economist

"BLS is considered one of the principal statistical agencies in the world."
Roberto Morales
Economist

Working at BLS National Office

Background

To ensure that its labor force is well-qualified to do the job, BLS has designed four complementary levels of orientation and training: (1) Administrative Orientation, (2) Job-specific Training, (3) Corporate Orientation, and (4) Office-specific Orientation. If you are joining BLS as a supervisor and are not in the Senior Executive Service (SES), you will also be required to attend New Supervisor Administrative Orientation.

Orientation

On your first day at BLS, you will attend an orientation with other new employees. A human resource specialist will explain your benefits package, including transit subsidies, health and life insurance, and retirement plans. You will be fingerprinted and receive a BLS ID card. You will need this card to enter the building and the office suite where you work. The initial orientation session lasts through the morning of your first 2 days; once it is over, you will report to your supervisor. In the subsequent corporate orientation, you will receive additional, more specific information about BLS and meet the BLS Commissioner.

On your first day after orientation, your supervisor will introduce you to your coworkers and get you connected to the BLS computer network, which includes BLS Central. BLS Central provides a wealth of information of activities at BLS, including a calendar of events, administrative information, a Bureau-wide organizational chart, floor plans, and so forth. Most of the major program offices also maintain their own intranets with office-specific information of interest—such as when a new employee joins the office!

Job-specific training

You will then begin job-specific training assigned by your supervisor. The nature of the job-specific training varies by office and your skill level.

Corporate orientation

You will attend BLS Corporate Orientation within a few months after you start working at BLS. This training provides an overview of the BLS mission, initiatives, organizational structure, values, products, and customers. It also examines the role of BLS in the federal and international statistical community. Understanding how your specific job fits into the overall mission of BLS will help you realize the importance of your work. BLS Corporate Orientation is presented by BLS executives, managers, and other BLS employees who have significant knowledge and experience in their areas of expertise.

Office-specific orientation

Office-specific orientation programs focus on the culture and role of the individual office in the overall organization and mission of BLS. Individual program offices vary in the amount of office-specific training.

New supervisor administrative orientation

New supervisors who are not in the Senior Executive Service will need to learn about the time and attendance system, employee relations, labor relations, staffing and recruitment, equal employment opportunity, and training and development. Additional training will occur throughout your career at BLS.

Dress code

BLS does not have an official dress code. The style of dress is best described as business-casual for most days; for meetings and formal events, some employees dress more formally. Please contact your supervisor for office-specific dress requirements.

Educational opportunities

BLS provides excellent opportunities for job-related and career development courses through the Bureau’s training center and those of the Department of Labor (both free), and through college and universities. You may be eligible for tuition assistance depending on how the course applies to your work and annual training budgets.

Onsite training: A variety of professional courses at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels are offered. Instructors for these classes have years of experience in their respective fields.

Online training: BLS offers online training courses as an alternative to traditional classroom training. BLS University and DOL LearningLink provide you an opportunity to enhance your professional, business, and technological skills to meet ever-changing workplace needs. Find out specific details and obtain approval from your supervisor before signing up for courses.

Work schedules

BLS offers work options that provide a great deal of flexibility. Employees can work as early as 6:00 a.m. and as late as 8:00 p.m. Core hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday. Core hours are the hours that you need to be in a work status or in an authorized leave status. There are no core hours on Mondays or Fridays; however, employees must work at least 4 hours on Mondays and Fridays, or else be on authorized leave. Full time employees need to have 80 hours for each pay period (every 2 weeks). You will work out your exact schedule with your supervisor once you start.

BLS also allows employees to accrue credit hours. With permission, you can earn credit hours if you work over 80 hours in a pay period. Credit hours may be used in lieu of leave hours; however, your leave still must be approved by your supervisor. An employee can bank up to 24 hours of credit hours.

Teleworking

Telework is a workplace flexibility that allows employees to perform work from an alternate worksite other than the main worksite, which in most cases is the employee’s home. An employee must occupy a position determined eligible for telework, meet additional criteria required by the Telework Enhancement Act, DOL policy, and applicable Collective Bargaining Agreements to participate in a telework arrangement. Individual employee participation in telework is subject to supervisory approval. For those employees who choose to request participation in telework, the following application process is required:

  • Probationary employees are not allowed to have a formal telework agreement.
  • A sufficient amount of the employee’s essential work functions to be identified by the supervisor can be performed at a telework site.
  • The office coverage needs must be met and not negatively affected by the employee’s participation in telework.
  • The employee will be available and accessible to supervisors, coworkers, and customers at all times while performing work at the telework site.
  • The employee's most recent performance evaluation or interim summary rating (for new employees) is at least “effective.”
  • The employee has not been officially disciplined within the previous 12 months for reasons that would cause management to be concerned about the employee's trustworthiness or dependability.
  • Costs of such an arrangement are feasible. Costs or cost savings in technology, equipment, and telecommunications are considerations in decisions regarding participation in telework arrangements.
  • Technology/equipment is available. Existing and evolving technology may allow or prevent an employee from participating in the telework program if the employee requires access to specific equipment and/or technology on telework days.
  • The designated telework training is completed before the telework agreement is signed, and a certificate of completion is provided to the supervisor.

Learn more from the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010.

Facilities and services

Once you obtain access to the BLS intranet, you will be able to see the building floor plan. The floor plan is also available when you access the Conference Room Reservation System.

Fitness Center

BLS Fitness Center is located on the ground floor of the PSB in Room G455 and is open Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. It is fully equipped, with men’s and women’s locker rooms (with showers), a mirrored aerobic room, a separate Cybex strength training room, and a main exercise floor that consists of cardiovascular equipment, free weights, and a stretching area. The Fitness Center offers top quality aerobics, step, body works, yoga, and core strength classes. Rates are very reasonable and lockers available for daily use or for six-month rentals.

BLS does not sponsor sports teams, but employees organize softball, soccer, golf, and other activities.

Shower and locker facilities

Men’s and women’s shower and locker facilities are located on the first floor of the PSB in Rooms 1870 and 1880 and are available to all BLS employees and maintenance staff at no cost. There are five showers in each of these rooms and a number of lockers that are available on a first come, first serve basis.

Health Unit

The Health Unit is located on the first floor of the PSB in Room 2870 and is operated by Federal Occupational Health (FOH). The Health Unit is staffed by an FOH registered nurse on a full-time basis and by an FOH registered nurse and physician on a part-time basis. Walk-in care, emergency response, bed rest, physical exams, blood pressure monitoring, immunizations, individual health counseling, health information, and other services are available for free. The Health Unit is open from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m. (emergencies only from 4:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.).

Credit Union (DOLFCU)

All BLS and DOL employees and contractors are eligible for DOL Federal Credit Union membership. The DOLFCU ATM is located on the 1st floor of the PSB and the branch office is in Room 2665. Credit Union hours are from Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For more information, please visit the website at www.dolfcu.org.

DOL facilities

The Esther Peterson Child Development Center at the Department of Labor provides quality childcare for DOL employees. It is located close to PSB at the main Department of Labor building, the Frances Perkins Building (FPB): 200 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20210. The Child Development Center is located in room N1453 of FPB. For more information, please call (202) 693-7979.

Counseling services are also available and include assessment, career exploration, decision making, and development of a training plan. To schedule an appointment, please call the DOL Career Assistance Center located in room C5324 of FPB at (202) 693-7637 or (202) 693-7658.

Other DOL provided facilities available to you at FPB include dry cleaning services, racquetball courts, a cafeteria, and a post office.

BLS cafeteria

The BLS cafeteria is located on the first floor and serves breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The cafeteria features a salad bar, including fresh fruit and vegetables, plus other choices priced by the ounce. You can also get a variety of burgers, fries, and sandwiches from the grill at set prices. Employees are allowed to bring their own food into the cafeteria as well. Once you obtain access to the BLS intranet, you will be able to view the weekly menu.

Garage parking

BLS provides a limited number of parking spaces and bicycle racks in the Postal Square Building for its executive staff, disabled employees, and employees who ride in vanpools and carpools. After-hours parking is available for all employees with a permit.

Proximity to Union Station

Union Station is located at 40 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., directly across the street from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is a food court with a number of vendors in Union Station, a post office, a shopping center, and several restaurants. Completed in 1908, Union Station, like the Postal Square Building, is considered one of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in Washington, DC. This three-level building is one of the most visited destinations in the nation’s capital, with over 23.5 million visitors a year.

Commuting to BLS National Office

Background

Washington, DC, is between growing suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. Traffic congestion can be a problem. Where you live and your schedule will help determine the best way to get to and from work.

You have many commuting options and a transit subsidy program to assist you. Because BLS is located next to Union Station, a hub for all available rail systems in the area, those options include Metrorail, Metrobus, and the Maryland and Virginia commuter trains, MARC and VRE, respectively. There are also local and commuter bus services that link to rail stations, park-and-ride lots, and other transit offerings. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) administers Metrorail and Metrobus. For further information, see http://www.wmata.com/

Transit subsidy program

BLS offers a transit subsidy for employees who use public transportation to commute to work. The amount you receive is based on your monthly cost to commute using public transportation (Metro, MARC, VRE, buses, etc.); if you do not use public transportation, you will not receive the transit subsidy. To receive this subsidy, you must first enroll in the BLS transit subsidy program and recertify annually. (You will be given the required application your first day at work.) Once you receive access to the BLS intranet, you will be able to view a full description of the program.

Metro and support services

Metrorail (or Subway) System

The Washington Metro, commonly called Metro or Metrorail, is the subway system in Washington, DC and its suburbs. It is administered by WMATA, which also operates Metrobus service. In Maryland, Metro serves Montgomery and Prince George's counties; in Virginia, it serves Fairfax and Arlington counties and the City of Alexandria. Metro is the second-busiest rapid transit system in the United States in number of passenger trips, after the New York City subway. Opened in 1976, Metro has grown to include six lines, 91 stations, and 117 miles of track.

Fare cards

To ride Metrorail, you need either a fare card or a SmarTrip card.

Fare cards are paper cards with fare information stored on a magnetic strip. Fare amounts and frequency of train arrival and departures depend on time of day and day of the week. Purchase fare cards only from authorized sale outlets listed on the WMATA website, such as vending machines in Metrorail stations, Metro sales offices, online, etc.; fare cards sold elsewhere may be rejected by Metrorail fare gates. You can purchase fare cards at each station and online in $10, $15, and $20 amounts. Fare card machines give up to $5 change in coins only, however, so be sure to bring small bills. Fare cards are not refundable, but exchanges will be made for malfunctioning fare cards.

SmarTrip cards

A SmarTrip card is a reusable, rechargeable plastic fare card with an embedded special computer chip that keeps track of the value of the card. To get a rail-to-bus or bus-to-rail discount or to transfer free from bus to bus, you must use a SmarTrip® card. The card costs $2 and can be recharged when its balance is low. There is also a discount for using a SmartTrip card instead of paper fare cards. For more information, go to www.wmata.com/fares/smartrip/.

MetroAccess is Metro’s curb-to-curb paratransit service, complementing Metrorail, Metrobus, and local bus service for people with disabilities. You can find more information about MetroAccess on WMATA’s website at MetroAccess.

Metrobus is the area’s regional bus service, operating approximately 350 routes. WMATA’s Metrobus Service Maps page has maps showing all the Metrobus and local bus routes in District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as bus timetables by jurisdiction. To view it, click on this link www.wmata.com/bus

Metrobus passes are date-specific, valid only on the dates indicated. Weekly passes are good from Sunday through Saturday.  If you don’t have either a Metrobus pass or a SmartTrip card, be sure to have exact change for the fare; Metrobus drivers don’t carry cash. WMATA’s website has a list of the different Metrobus passes.  More information is available at www.wmata.com/fares

Parking. Metro operates parking facilities at 43 Metrorail stations. All 43 stations offer daily or hourly parking, separate motorcycle and bicycle parking, and accessible priority parking near station entrances. Daily parking fees vary by station and are posted at the parking entrance/exit as well as on the website.  For more information, click on this link: Parking.

DC Circulator. Operates in Washington, DC, from Union Station to Georgetown and from the Southwest Waterfront to the DC Convention Center. Hours: Every 5-10 minutes daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. SmarTrip cards are accepted. More information is available at Circulator.

Ride On Bus. Ride-On-Bus is available in Montgomery County, Maryland. More information is available at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dot-transit/

The Bus. The Bus is available in Prince George’s County. More information is available at www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/1120/TheBus

DASH Bus. The DASH Bus is available in Alexandria, Virginia. More information is available at www.dashbus.com/

ART (Arlington Transit). ART is available in Arlington, Virginia. More information is available at www.arlingtontransit.com/

Fairfax Connector. Fairfax connector runs routes throughout Fairfax County, Virginia, and also to Arlington County, Virginia. More information is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/connector/

Other transit bus systems

A few communities in the Metropolitan area, such as the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George’s County in Maryland, and Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax in Virginia, operate additional bus lines that supplement the Metrobus system. For routes, fares, and times, please visit the respective websites.

Handicap services

Many buses are equipped with platforms that lower to the curb and lift passengers and wheelchairs on board. Once on board, the wheelchair is secured in a reserved area. Policies differ depending on the bus company. To find out what the different bus companies offer, contact the company directly.

"Red Alert" days

Sometimes in summer, the Washington region experiences poor air quality that can adversely affect the health of the elderly or those with respiratory difficulties.  When the National Weather Service issues a “Red Alert” for air quality in the region, the bus fare may be waived for regional bus services.

Commuter Rail Services

Maryland Area Rail Commuter (MARC)

Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) is a commuter rail service from the District of Columbia to surrounding areas in Maryland and West Virginia. MARC consists of three lines into and out of the city.

Penn Line. The Penn Line uses Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line and runs between Washington, Baltimore (Penn Station), and Perryville, Maryland.

Camden Line. The Camden Line uses the CSX route between Washington and Baltimore (Camden Station).

Brunswick Line. The Brunswick Line uses the CSX Route between Washington, Brunswick, Frederick, Maryland, and Martinsburg, West Virginia.

For more information, see mta.maryland.gov/marc-train

MARC tickets

Tickets for MARC trains are sold at all Amtrak ticket counters, at some MARC stations, on MARC’s fares and passes website, at Commuter Store locations in Virginia, and by mail order. For more information, call (888) 226-5515 or go to the MARC ticket website at www.commuterdirect.com.

Important MARC facts

  1. Tickets can be purchased on the train when no ticket agent is available at the station (cash only).
  2. Tickets purchased on trains are subject to a $3.00 penalty if the ticket office was open when the train departed.
  3. Parking is free at parking lots that exclusively serve the MARC train.
  4. The MARC has a limited weekend schedule on the Penn line only. The Camden and Brunswick lines do not run on the weekends.

Virginia Railway Express (VRE)

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is the commuter train connecting northern Virginia to Washington, DC. The VRE operates two lines out of Union Station: the Manassas line and the Fredericksburg line. Service begins weekdays at approximately 5 a.m. and ends at approximately 7 p.m. There is no weekend service; however, you can use your VRE ticket on select Amtrak trains (both during the week and on weekends). More information is available at www.vre.org.

VRE fares, schedules, and ticket information

VRE fares are based on distance from Washington’s Union Station and L’Enfant Plaza as determined by concentric zones: The greater the distance from DC, the greater the fare. Some VRE tickets are nonrefundable, while others follow a strict refund policy. VRE fare and schedule information are available at any VRE station or on the VRE website at http://www.vre.org/service/fares.htm

Validating your ticket before boarding

Ten-trip and Single-Ride tickets need to be validated at the ticket vending/validator machines in each station entrance area before you board the train. Insert the end of your ticket with the arrows pointing into the machine and it will stamp the ticket. If you are unable to validate your ticket, you must speak with a conductor prior to boarding the train. Note: Tickets are not sold on board VRE trains. Conductors who observe passengers onboard without a valid ticket are subject to a fine of up to $500.

Ticket sales and other information can be found at the Commuter Stores and on the VRE website at http://www.vre.org/service/buyval.htm

Important VRE facts

  1. VRE doesn’t operate on weekends or federal holidays.
  2. Amtrak trains are available for some holidays.
  3. Tickets are not sold on board VRE trains.
  4. Delays do occur. Call (800) RIDE-VRE for information about delays or go to VRE’s Rail Time website.
  5. Guaranteed Ride Home Program exists in case of unscheduled overtime or an emergency for you or your family.

Biking to work

BLS provides bike racks for employees to park their bikes in the downstairs garage. All BLS employees are eligible to obtain a bike permit. Bike permits for parking in the garage can be obtained through the online parking permit application found on BLS Central.

A commuting bicycle reimbursement is provided by the Department of Labor to support the Department's sustainability efforts and promote health and wellness. The Bicycle Commuting Reimbursement Program will enable employees to receive up to $240 per year for qualified bicycle expenses, including the purchase of a bicycle, bicycle improvements, and more. A qualified commuting month is any month an employee uses the bicycle regularly for 50 percent or more of the travel between home and work. However, an employee may not receive any of the other qualified transportation benefits—transit subsidy and federally subsidized workplace parking—during the month. Internal Revenue Service rules impose a cap of $20 per month and $240 per year for this benefit. This reimbursement is made once a year.

Capital Bikeshare is a bike-sharing system that serves Washington, DC; Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland. First opened in 2010, Capital Bikeshare now has more than 300 stations and 2,500 bikes. Trips of up to 30 minutes are free. Longer trips incur fees for each additional half hour, ranging from $1.50 to $8.00. Riders also may purchase a 24-hour pass ($7) or a 3-day pass ($15) at any bike station. For more information, see the Capital Bikeshare website.

Get information on local bike traffic rules, Metro bike rules, and facilities that can help you avoid accidents or fines before you decide to bike to work. Laws vary by jurisdiction. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) provides free bike education classes on city riding. For additional information, visit their website at http://waba.org/

Metro Rules for Bikes:

  1. Only regular bikes (no tricycles, training wheels, etc.) are permitted.
  2. Bikes are not permitted during rush hour (7–10 a.m. and 4–7 p.m. Monday through Friday)
  3. Do not use escalators. Use elevators at all times.
  4. You can board with a bike on any train car in either the first or last door. Do not use center doors.
  5. Bicycle lockers are available to rent at many metro stations. For more information, see https://wmata.com/service/bikes/

Carpooling, "slugging," and metered parking

Carpooling

BLS encourages carpooling by offering a limited number of free parking spaces in the garage under the PSB for employees in carpools, people with disabilities, and senior executive staff. BLS assigns point values to carpool applicants based on the number of riders in the carpool. Tenured BLS employees receive the most points, followed by nontenured PSB workers, DOL employees, and other federal workers. Annual applications for permits are due by mid-January and are distributed in late February. Motorcycle permits are also available. Carpool and vanpools must have a minimum of two people (driver included) to qualify. Information about forming carpooling groups is available at this website http://www.commuterconnections.org/

Please note that you cannot participate in both the BLS-sponsored commuter and parking permit programs; if you receive a transit subsidy, your name cannot also be on a parking permit application. You can apply for an after-hours permit that allows you to park in the PSB garage after normal business hours and on the weekends, however, and be part of the BLS-sponsored commuter program.

Park and Ride lots were created in Maryland and Virginia to assist commuters with carpooling efforts and to serve commuter bus lines. These lots are located along highly travelled routes and do not charge for parking. For information about Park and Ride lots, please see their website at www.commuterpage.com

"Slugging"

“Slugging,” sometimes referred to as “Instant Carpooling” or “Casual Carpooling,” is a term used to describe a form of commuting unique to Washington DC. Those needing a ride, or “slugs,” wait in designated areas typically near entrances to I-395/I-95 in the hope of getting a ride from someone driving to Washington DC.  No money is exchanged because the arrangement is mutually beneficial: the driver gets rider(s) to take advantage of the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane and the “slug” gets a free ride. While it’s understandable that riding with a stranger would involve some apprehension, slugging is actually a very socially acceptable, organized system with its own set of rules, proper etiquette, and specific pickup and drop-off locations. For more information about “slugging,” click on the slugging website at http://www.slug-lines.com/Index.htm.

Metered parking

Meters around BLS allow parking for a maximum of two hours at a time and generally require payment in quarters; newer parking meters accept payment by credit or debit cards and cash. About half of the metered parking in DC is the curb travel lane of the road. These spaces are not available until 9:30 a.m. and must be vacated in the afternoon, usually by 3 p.m. Signs are typically posted nearby indicating no parking is permitted from 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 or 7:00 p.m.

Metered spaces around the PSB usually fill up early each day. They are best suited for employees who plan to work a shortened day. More information is available at http://ddot.dc.gov/page/parking-meters.

As an alternative, you can purchase a monthly pass and park in a local garage.

Other transportation information

This section provides important information that motor vehicle owners will need to know to comply with District and state registration requirements and alternative modes of transportation available in the Washington area.

Department of Motor Vehicles

Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia require that all vehicle operators have a valid driver’s license (from any state) to register or title a vehicle with their Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (if you don’t have a valid driver’s license, refer to the appropriate motor vehicle office for specific instructions about how to obtain a one). Because DMV offices service hundreds of customers each day, allow at least 2–3 hours to register your vehicle(s). Many forms are now available online at the various DMV websites, so you can save time by downloading and completing them in advance.

District of Columbia

Contact information is available at (202) 727-5000 or online at dmv.dc.gov

Vehicle Registration

DC law requires that all vehicles housed and operated in the District be registered in the District unless the owner displays a reciprocity sticker issued by DMV. People who want to establish residency in the District have 30 days to register their vehicle. To register and title your vehicle you will need the following: title, current DC vehicle insurance, a DC driver’s license (or DC nondriver identification card), a car bill of sale (new car), and proof of a valid odometer statement and your car must pass the emissions and safety inspection (see next section). You will need to provide lien or lessee contracts as well if that applies and must not have any outstanding tickets.

Emissions and safety inspection

Washington, DC, requires a valid emissions and safety inspection sticker for each vehicle registered in the city. The only exceptions are brand new vehicles from dealerships and pre-owned vehicles that already have valid inspection stickers.

The District’s vehicle emissions and safety inspection station is at 1001 Half Street, SW, in DC and you must go in person. Be sure to bring your valid out-of-state registration and proof of insurance. If the vehicle fails inspection, get a copy of the repair recommendation and information sheet from the inspection team.

The Washington, DC, DMV telephone number is (202) 737-4404. For hours of operation and other information about vehicle inspection, see dmv.dc.gov/service/vehicle-inspections

Maryland


Motor Vehicles Administration (MVA)

Contact information: 24-hour information line (800) 950-1MVA or (800) 950-1682, or Customer Service at (410) 768-7000 or www.mva.maryland.gov

Titling and registration

As a new resident of Maryland, you must register your vehicle within 60 days of moving to Maryland. If you delay beyond 60 days, you will not be eligible for a tax credit for any titling tax paid in another state, and you may be subject to a citation for an out of state registration. To initially register your out-of-state vehicle you will need: Title, proof of Maryland vehicle insurance, Maryland safety inspection (see below), and proof of payment of Maryland state vehicle tax (done at an MVA office). In addition, a Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) inspection shall be done before or after the initial registration. (See below.)

You can apply for a Maryland title and registration in person at any of the MVA full-service branch offices. You also can mail the documents to the following address:

MVA Out-of-State Title Unit
6601 Ritchie Highway
Glen Burnie, MD 21062

Or go to an MVA licensed tag and title service.

There are two types of MVA offices in Maryland: full service offices and express offices. Full service offices provide all services, including vehicle registration, licensing, road tests, and titling. Express offices provide limited services, such as driver’s license renewal, license tag drop-off, and photo ID. For hours of operation and other information, see www.mva.maryland.gov.

Maryland excise titling tax

Individuals purchasing vehicles in Maryland owe an additional 6% excise tax based on the purchase price, adjusted for high or low mileage. On vehicles seven years old and older, the tax is based on the greater of the purchase price or book value (which may not be less than $640).

Vehicle emissions and safety inspection

The Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) is an important component of the State’s plan to improve air quality. New residents to Maryland must obtain a Maryland Safety Inspection Certificate for ALL vehicles being titled and registered in Maryland. When you register your vehicle, you will receive a test notice from the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) and will have 8 weeks to have your vehicle inspected. You can complete the VEIP at any of the many stations located throughout Maryland.

Safety inspections are performed by licensed Maryland inspection stations, including automobile dealers, service stations, and specialized automobile service centers.  Always compare the vehicle identification number (VIN) entered on the inspection certificate with the VIN on the vehicle and all other documents to make certain they agree; altered inspection certificates will not be accepted.  You must register your vehicle within 90 days of this inspection.

For more information, see www.mva.maryland.gov

Virginia


Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

Contact information: (804) 497-7100 or www.dmv.virginia.gov

Vehicle registration

As a new resident of Virginia, you must register and title your vehicle and obtain Virginia license plates within 30 days of establishing residency in Virginia. To register your vehicle you will need the following: proof of auto insurance, proof your car met state emissions inspection (where applicable) and a Vehicle Safety Inspection Sticker (on your car). For more information, see www.dmv.virginia.gov

Vehicle emissions and safety inspection

Your vehicle must pass an emissions inspection before registration in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William, or Stafford, or the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, or Manassas Park.

If your vehicle is being registered for the first time in Virginia and has a current valid emissions certificate (performed in the last 12 months) from one of the following states, it may be titled and registered without a Virginia emissions inspection: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, or Wisconsin.

Emissions inspections are performed in a number of locations in Virginia and are valid for 2 years. The emissions station will update your vehicle record at the DMV. For a list of inspection stations, see www.dmv.virginia.gov

Once you have registered a vehicle in Virginia, it must meet safety requirements immediately and annually thereafter. New vehicles sold in Virginia are inspected by the dealer.

Long-distance travel

Some information about personal travel to and from the DC area follows.

Airports

There are three main airports in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.

Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA)

This airport is about a10-minute drive from the center of Washington, DC, and is also accessible by the Washington Metrorail Blue Line. More information is available at www.metwashairports.com/reagan or (703) 417-8000.

Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI)

This airport is about a 45 minute drive from the center of Washington, DC and is also accessible via MARC or Amtrak rail lines from Washington’s Union Station. More information is available at www.bwiairport.com or (410) 859-7111.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

This airport is about a 40-minute drive from the center of Washington, DC, in Northern Virginia. More information is available at www.metwashairports.com/dulles or (703) 572-2700.

Intercity travel

The Greyhound bus line leaves from and returns to Washington’s Union Station. More information is available at www.greyhound.com

Peter Pan

The Peter Pan Bus line leaves from and returns to Washington’s Union Station. More information is available at www.peterpanbus.com

Bolt Bus

The Bolt Bus line leaves from and returns to Washington’s Union Station to help move around the city. More information is available at www.boltbus.com

Chinatown buses

Chinatown buses are an option for Washington-area residents to travel to other major East Coast cities. They depart from different areas in Chinatown (Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro stop) and drop passengers off in Chinatowns in the destination city. Major providers include:

Apex www.ilikebus.com

Amtrak

From Union Station, you can easily travel by Amtrak to anywhere in the U.S. Tickets for Amtrak can be purchased at Union Station, by phone at (800)-USA-RAIL or online at www.amtrak.com.

Local Travel

Short-term car rental
Car sharing

In addition to the traditional car rental agencies the Washington, DC, area has a short-term car rental company called ZipCar, designed for people without cars in urban areas who need to go shopping, attend an event in the suburbs, or other reasons. ZipCars are mostly located near Metro stops and can be reserved for an hour or a couple of days. Sign up online to receive a special card in the mail that will unlock the doors when you are ready to pick up your car.  Just reserve the date, time and pickup location that you would like (gas and insurance are included in the price). For more information, go to their website at www.zipcar.com.

Taxis

For fare information on DC taxis, visit the DC Taxicab Commission site at https://dfhv.dc.gov/.

Housing in the Washington metropolitan area

This section focuses on rental housing information. Most of our new employees rent for at least a few months even if they plan to purchase a home and sources for rental information often also have information about purchasing a home. Some of the things you will want to consider are housing costs, transportation options, and taxes. The Washington Post website has an interactive feature to help you gather information about neighborhood schools, hospitals, crime statistics, home prices, etc., in the Washington area at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/rentals/dcarealiving/

While most employees look for housing in the District of Columbia and its nearby suburban communities, Baltimore, Maryland should be considered an option for a number of reasons. Travel to BLS national office is made easy by frequent, comfortable, and reasonably-priced commuter rail services on MARC trains and housing prices are lower on average than in the city of Washington.  For additional information, visit the following website at https://livebaltimore.com/

Housing search sources

Washington Post

Print: Classifieds appear daily and an Apartment Living section in the Saturday edition. There is a Real Estate section in the Saturday and Sunday editions. For more information, go to www.washingtonpost.com and select “Real Estate” or “Rentals at the top of the home page.

Washington Times

Print: Check the Classifieds section daily and the Home Guide section on Friday. For more information, go to www.washingtontimes.com then click on “Classifieds” at the bottom of the home page.

Washington City Paper

Print: Free weekly published every Thursday afternoon. Available at newsstands around the area. See www.washingtoncitypaper.com

Housing hunt checklists

Things to take with you on a site visit

  1. Photo ID
  2. Checkbook
  3. Names, addresses, and phone numbers of previous landlords
  4. Social Security Number
  5. Employment information
  6. Copy of BLS offer letter (to prove employment)
  7. Personal references
  8. List of questions for landlord
  9. (Optional) copy of credit report

Questions to ask when viewing housing

  1. Are utilities included? If not, what are the average utility bills?
  2. Cable or satellite/Internet provider?
  3. Laundry?
  4. Storage?
  5. Resident and/or guest parking?
  6. Security staff?
  7. Package deliver arrangements?
  8. Air conditioning?
  9. Are the building and the neighborhood safe and secure?
  10. How are repairs handled? Holiday/after-hours repairs?
  11. Are there special move-in times or procedures?
  12. What separates apartments to protect tenants from noise?
  13. If there are hardwood floors, is there a rule about carpeting the floors?
  14. How many people may live in the unit (if renting for more than one person)?
  15. What is the guest policy (is there a time limit)?
  16. What is the penalty for early lease termination?
  17. Does the landlord allow subletting?
  18. Does the lease go month-to-month at the end of the initial period?
  19. May tenants have spare keys?
  20. Is it possible to get receipts for any application fees and/or deposits?
  21. Pet policy?

Checklist of other items to note in your lease

  1. Time required for tenant or landlord to give notice about moving out
  2. Policies for renting after the lease period
  3. Responsibility for utilities
  4. Conditions for apartment repair
  5. Conditions if a roommate defaults on rent
  6. Conditions if tenant refuses rent increase
  7. Rules for subletting
  8. Times and policies for returning the security deposit

Hostels

Hostels are a great place to stay while looking for permanent housing. They provide inexpensive dormitory-style accommodations with separate quarters for men and women.

Hilltop Hostel
300 Carroll St., NW, Washington, DC (202) 291-9591
www.hosteldc.com

HI-Washington DC
1009 11th St., NW, Washington, DC 20001 (202) 737-2333
www.hiwashingtondc.org/

Utilities

While some rental properties include utilities others do not, meaning you are responsible for getting them turned on and off. To avoid delays, contact the utility company before you move into your apartment or house and allow several days for them to be activated.

Electricity service

Electricity services vary from city to city and state to state. Be sure to inquire about provider choices and regulations in your area. Electricity services have been deregulated in the District of Columbia; so, while PEPCO is still the provider of all electricity, consumers can choose who generates the electricity they purchase through PEPCO. Many areas also have electricity cooperatives that operate locally. For more information, call one of the following:

DC

PEPCO

(202) 833-5000 or (800) 424-8028

MD

PEPCO and BGE

(202) 833-5000 or (800) 685-0123

VA

Dominion Power

(888) 667-3000

VA

Northern VA. Electric Cooperative

(703) 335-0500

Gas service

The two major carriers that serve the entire metro area are Washington Gas and BGE.

Washington Gas
6801 Industrial Rd
Springfield, VA 22151
(703) 750-1000 and (800) 752-7520
www.washgas.com

BGE
110 W. Fayette St
Baltimore, MD 21201
(800) 685-0123
www.bge.com

Telephone service

There are several telephone service providers available in the Washington area from which to choose.

Cable television and satellite dish

Cable is typically offered by one major provider in each area, but competition is growing—especially from companies that provide other services in addition to cable, like Internet service. Dish Network and Direct TV are alternatives to cable. For additional information visit their websites: www.dish.com and www.directv.com

Comcast Cable

Comcast cable is available in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. www.xfinity.com

DC

(202) 635-5100

Maryland

Annapolis

(410) 268-7551

Anne Arundel Co.

(410) 987-8600

Baltimore

(410) 427-9600

Charles Co.

(301) 645-9300

Howard Co.

(410) 461-1156

Montgomery Co.

(410) 424-4400

Prince George's Co.

(800) 443-2072

Virginia

Alexandria

(703) 461-4499

Arlington

(703) 358-2782

Dale City

(703) 670-0189

Manassas

(703) 368-4227

Cox Cable

http://www.cox.com/residential/home.cox
Fairfax County (703) 378-8400

Verizon Fios

http://www.verizon.com/
(855) 343-1470

Tenants' rights and rental law

For information about tenants’ rights and tenant laws, contact the agencies listed under Advocacy Resources for each of the jurisdictions.

Washington, DC

Contact the Advocacy Resources Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs at (202) 442-4400 or http://dcra.dc.gov and look at the section “Landlord and Tenant Help and Tips for Tenants.”

Maryland

Contact the Commission on Civil Rights at (410) 767-8600 or the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at (410) 576-6550.

Virginia

Contact the Fair Housing Office at (804) 367-8530 or the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (804) 786-2042.

State and local taxes

State taxes may be a factor in determining where you choose to live. To obtain information on the taxes in District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, please visit the following websites:

Washington, DC

otr.cfo.dc.gov

Maryland

www.dat.state.md.us

Virginia

www.tax.virginia.gov

Schools

K-12 education, college, and graduate school

At the following websites you can find county public school information and information about local colleges and universities:

Washington, DC

http://dcps.dc.gov/portal/site/DCPS/

Maryland

Anne Arundel

www.aacps.org

Calvert

www.calvertnet.k12.md.us

Charles

www.ccboe.com

Frederick

www.fcps.edu

Howard

www.hcpss.org

Montgomery

www.mcps.k12.md.us

Virginia

Alexandria

www.acps.k12.va.us

Arlington

https://www.apsva.us/

Fairfax

https://www.fcps.edu/

Loudon

www.loudoun.k12.va.us

Prince William

www.pwcs.edu

Selected college and universities

District of Columbia

American University

www.american.edu

Catholic University of America

www.cua.edu

Gallaudet University

www.gallaudet.edu

George Washington University

www.gwu.edu

Georgetown University

www.georgetown.edu

Howard University

www.howard.edu

University of the District of Columbia

www.udc.edu

Graduate School USA

www.graduateschool.edu

Maryland

Johns Hopkins University

www.jhu.edu

Loyola College in Maryland

www.loyola.edu

Morgan State University

www.morgan.edu

Towson University

www.towson.edu

University of Maryland

www.umd.edu

Virginia

George Mason University

www.gmu.edu

Northern Virginia Community College

www.nvcc.edu

Additionally, Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia have graduate centers adjacent to the West Falls Church Metro Station.

Conclusion

We hope that this guide proves to be of benefit to you as you get settled in the Washington area. Most of all, we hope that you enjoy your work at BLS and that several years from now you can say that you made the correct decision in choosing to work here. Congratulations on your new job!

Last modified: August 3, 2017