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In all honesty you do not need a car in D.C. The metro is not only a convenience to college students but for most D.C. residents. Parking availability is extremely scarce within the city, and Howard's campus is no exception. Though there are parking lots devoted to students, they are not beneficial unless you only plan on keeping your car parked. I will say that a car is a good idea if you plan on living off campus and have a job. With the start of spring semester each year, you can register to be placed in a lottery to receive a parking pass. These passes are $240 per year and are very limited. If you do not receive one of these passes, you are left on your own and liable to rack up parking tickets from our always-present campus police.
With all that said, it's worth mentioning the efficiency of the D.C. public transportation system. Besides the Metro, which closes at midnight Sunday through Thursday and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, there is the Metrorail/Metrobus system, as well as the Circulator. With all of these options, you have no problem getting to the places you need to go, car or no car. Most times, the Metro will get you around the city easier than a car. D.C. traffic is always congested, and navigating around the city is much simpler with a Metro map. It is probably in your best interest to leave the car at home until you are comfortable with the city.