North Bethesda residents Brandon Yu and Alex Middel were tired of waiting for late night Metro service or paying for taxis back from bar spots in Washington D.C., so they came up with what they say is a much needed alternative.
Last weekend, the pair of Winston Churchill High School grads introduced The DC Hopper, a late night shuttle service catered exclusively to those who want to make the trip from Bethesda to Dupont Circle or Georgetown without waiting for Metro trains or taxi drivers that will make the drive across the District line at the end of the night.
The system of 30-passenger mini buses will make stops at the corner of St. Elmo Avenue and Norfolk Avenue on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., with final pick ups in Georgetown at 3 a.m. and in Dupont Circle at 3:15 a.m.
“We’re both local guys who go out in Bethesda a lot and who used to like to go to D.C. more often,” Yu said. “Walking to the Metro was just a pain in the butt, with all the delays. Getting back was a pain. No one out on a Saturday night wants to wait for an unpredictable 20 to 30 minutes for a train to arrive.”
Just more than 100 people used the service last Friday night. Yu and Middel partnered with a number of D.C. bars to promote the service and provide drink specials and line-passing perks to the riders.
Saturday night was a little slower, something Yu attributed to the Taste of Bethesda, Taste of DC and Virgin Mobile Free Fest events going on the same day.
The two contracted with a shuttle company in Virginia that can provide as many as 14 shuttles in a night.
The DC Hopper is not, the two said, a party bus, meaning no neon lights or dance music on your way to the bar. They do provide free Red Bull energy drinks and water, as well as TVs to show off partner bars.
“The term I coined is an ‘above-ground Metro,’” Middel said. “In a sense, it’s to be more reliable than Metro service and tailored toward people that are going out.”
Yu said last weekend’s customers, who paid between $16 and $24 for the full trip from Bethesda to D.C., expressed tremendous support of the idea.
In the long run, the two would like to expand the idea to Arlington, U Street, or H Street and perhaps to other cities.
Next week, they’ll meet with Bethesda bars and restaurants to propose a “Hopper Hour” concept that would allow riders to grab dinner in Bethesda before heading out for D.C.
“It’s not necessarily just transportation,” Yu said, “it’s the perks you get with our transportation.”
For more information, visit The DC Hopper website.