Commuter Idle: From Fredericksburg to College Park

What in the world would make someone want to commute three hours each way, every single day of the week?

Randall Fortson is a runner-up in WTOP’s first-ever Commuter Idle contest, and wins $150 in Exxon Mobil gas cards!

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON – What in the world would make someone want to commute three hours each way, every single day of the week?

Even worse, who would want to drive, walk, take two trains and then take a bus to make it happen?

To fully understand, you have to climb into the mind of Randall Fortson. He commutes from his home in Fredericksburg, Va., to his office at the National Archives in College Park, Md., every day. He’s been doing it for 12 years.

Randall leaves his house at 4 a.m., then takes a 15-minute drive to the Fredericksburg VRE Station.

“If you don’t get there by 4:30, you probably don’t get a parking spot close to the train station,” says Fortson.

The train comes at 5:05 a.m, which gets Fortson into L’Enfant Plaza around 6:23 a.m., then it’s time to hop on Metro’s Green Line to Prince George’s Plaza, before finally catching a bus (and another 15-minute ride) to his office in College Park. He gets to his job as an archives specialist in the Cartographic and Architectural Records Division at the National Archives around 7:10 a.m.

The easy question to ask — why?

“I can’t make the kind of money locally that I make in the D.C. area,” Fortson says. “So, (it would be) nice to stay home and work locally — but if you don’t have the moolah to make ends meet, what’s the point?”

He also loves his job.

“WTOP gave a report recently that said history majors are almost an 11 percent unemployment rate coming out of college now,” Fortson says. “I’m one of the lucky ones that actually found a job in my field — and I’m not willing to give it up very quickly.”

Considering Fortson doesn’t get home until after 7:30 most nights and is in bed by 9, he must love the job.

His schedule doesn’t exactly leave much “home” time to spend with his wife, or keep in touch with his four children — who are all grown.

“When I took this job, I had to completely change the way I did things. But I don’t think I could take driving it every day,” says Fortson. “I would probably be a virtual mess every day I got into the office. I don’t like that uncertainty.”

Now that’s something most everyone in the D.C. area can understand.

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