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Taking a dog from Washington D.C. to New York City by public transit? Almost….

This topic came up yesterday in a tweet from a new follower who wondered if I knew of a way for her car-less aunt to get from her new home in D.C. to NYC, with a dog. I’ve written about this before, but the details are buried in several posts about public transit pet policies. So here’s what I’ve learned, in an easy-to-reach location.

You can almost travel between New York and Washington D.C. via pet-friendly public transit systems, except for a 35-mile gap between Perryville, MD and Newark, DE. Here’s how: Starting in New York City, you’d take NJ Transit into the Philadelphia area. You’d change systems, and take a SEPTA train (the R2 regional rail line) to…not quite all the way to…the MTA Maryland system, which would bring you (via the Penn Line MARC train) in to Washington’s Union Station and into the arms of D.C.’s WMATA system. It would take a long time. Your dog would have to be small, and in a carrier. But it would work, except for that pesky gap between the MTA Maryland system and the SEPTA system.

Please note that the gap is currently bridged by a DART bus (#65), which will take you from Newark, DE to Elkton, MD, where you can catch “The Bus — Perryville Connection” to the Perryville, MD MARC station. However, DART does not allow pet dogs on board — only service dogs.

Until DART sees the light, or the gap between Newark and Perryville is otherwise bridged by a pet-friendly transit system, your best alternatives are to send your dog to New York or D.C. via Pet Airways (currently about $99 for a one-way trip between NYC and D.C.) and follow her by train or bus or other ground transportation; or get on Craigslist and catch a ride with a dog lover heading your direction; or rent a car.

This would all be so much easier if Amtrak once again welcomed pet dogs on board. As I said in a comment on a friend’s blog post calling for Amtrak to reconsider its 1976 policy change, “instead of carrying pets in sleeping compartments (which would require extensive clean-up) or baggage cars (which would require heating/cooling baggage cars), why not allow only small pets in carriers in coach cars, as they do on planes? I think even long-distance train travelers would be thrilled, even though they’d have to doze upright in coach seats, to be allowed to bring their small dogs on board with them. The issue, then, would be to provide enough time at stops, every so often, for pet owners to take their dogs out for a quick break — and those designated stations would need to have a patch of grass or gravel and be equipped with one of those poles bearing poop bags and a small trash can that you see at airport pet relief areas.”


  • Rod@GoPetFriendly

    KISS. Of all the solutions you propose (and until Amtrak changes its stance) the option I like best is the simplest – find a dog lover on Craigslist and hitch a ride! And not to be a chauvinist here, but I imagine it’s easier/safer for a guy to do than than it might be for a woman. Rent the car, then?

  • Rent the car, I think. I love the idea of Pet Airways, but once you add in your own travel expenses, that option would cost considerably more than renting a car. And you wouldn’t have to drive all the way in to Manhattan — you could drop off your rental someplace less nerve-wracking, and take public transit to your final destination.

  • Todd Edelman

    See “Dogs on Board!” at my website. Big dogs travel on trains all over Europe, but not in crates, generally muzzled and hopefully laying on the floor. In most countries/regions a half-price ticket has to be paid for them, with the exception of, for example, the Netherlands and Scotland where national carriers offer a single trip ticket for about 7 dollars, the Czech Railways in the Czech Republic which offers a full day ticket for about 1.25, and the bus operators in both Flanders (the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium) and in Wales (with the operator Arriva) where dogs go free.

    As with e.g. Metro North or MBTA, staff always has the final say. Dogs can easily hold it for 4 to 6 hours, and many for much longer… though pee stations are a good idea.

  • Hello, Todd! Thanks for your comment — I agree that Amtrak has a ways to go to catch up with European train pet policies. I’d personally like it if, someday, Amtrak allowed larger dogs on board in the way you describe, but I think we need to get there in baby steps. My comment on Edie Jarolim’s post is meant to address the issues behind the 1977 APHIS regulations referenced in this article: The concerns underlying those regulations could most easily be addressed for small pet dogs in carriers. I figure they’d be the thin edge of the wedge….

    I think the pet relief areas would be crucial. Many popular Amtrak trips are short, but you can easily spend 7+ hours on a train ride, and that’s pushing it for any dog.

  • Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart

    I’m amazed … A) that you had the time/patience to figure this out and B) that is so doggone complicated.

    I’ve always wondered what people do in urban areas who do not have cars. Out west, with things so far apart, driving is really the best option.

  • Hi, Roxanne! It didn’t happen all at once — I wrote a post about one transit system’s pet policy, and then another’s, and then I noticed that they overlapped a bit, and then I found out that you can’t bring dogs on Amtrak or the major passenger buses — and then getting from NYC to DC with a pet dog and without a car became a kind of quest. Driving is really the best alternative, but every so often I get a plaintive message from someone with a dog who doesn’t drive….

  • roberta rubinoff

    It is insane that you are allowed to take a small dog on an 18 hour plane flight but not on Amtrak or all of all the new bus companies that have sprung up between NY and the DC area. I am talking about dogs that will fit in a carry on size container. I have heard that on long flights people take their dogs in the containers to the rest rooms and put a pee pad on the floor. Consider the high security on planes what are the trains and buses worried about??

  • Jeri Nicklau

    Amtrak already has stops that they call smoke breaks for passengers who smoke. They are long enough for a dog potty break If Amtrak would only see the light. I am one of those who does not drive. I would ride the train so much more if my little girl was with me

  • marilyn

    I would gladly pay a fee like a ticket for my dog to come with, I with Amtrak would do a annual trial run and see the revenue. If there was one car that allowed pets that would be awesome, even if they allowed on car for crates with dogs in them and wee wee pads in them where owners could come and check on their dog. Allowed to open the crate and give them a break. Idk I guess I think to much but I’d love to have my fur child with me she’s a tiny chihuahua.

  • Johnny Jack

    2 things
    The Septa line was the R7, NOT the R2, and is now the Trenton Line (not to be confused with the West Trenton Line, which DOES NOT offer connections to NYC, at least not easy ones anyway)
    And Septa and NJTransit do not officially allow dogs on trains, but most conductors don’t give a crap so long as it’s behaved

  • Hi, Johnny Jack — Thanks so much for the correction and update on the SEPTA line name(s). I’m going to push back on the pet policy point, however. NJ Transit and SEPTA both allow small pets in carriers on their trains. Check out this post for SEPTA (with updated link to current policy), and this one for NJ Transit (same old link, but still good).

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