How To Survive the DC Metro

While this was written for the Pope’s visit, since the fall ‘marching season’ will be upon us shortly in D.C., this might be useful to visitors:

So we figured this is a good time to gather some Metro-related tips for out-of-towners, new transplants and even locals who rarely take Metro…

Stand on the Right. The single most important rule for the Metro system involves the escalators. If you want to stand and ride, stay to the right; if you want to walk, stay to the left. Be prepared for annoyed looks from regular riders and commuters rushing to work if you run afoul of this basic guideline.

Fares and farecards. The easiest way to pay fares in the Metrorail and Metrobus systems is with a SmarTrip card. The cards also can be used on our regional bus systems. Our advice: get one as soon as you get to town and before you enter the system make sure you have enough fare for the entire trip. The re-loadable farecards costs $2 and are available at every Metro station, Metro’s five sales offices and many convenient retail locations across the Washington region including CVS, Walmart and Giant. Having a loaded farecard in advance will save you from the long lines at fare machines during the pope’s visit. If you using Metrobus, the fare is $1.75 per ride. You can calculate your Metro fare is by using this Trip Planner. Metrobuses also take exact fares in cash. Metrorail also offers the option of using a paper farecard, but it’s neither practical nor economical. A $1 surcharge is added to each trip made with a paper card.

Don’t block the doors. If you are waiting to board a train, don’t stand in front of the train doors. Let passengers exit the train before you board. Once you’re on the train, move to the center of the car — away from the doors — so other passengers can easily enter and exit. And do not, we repeat, do not take up more than one seat. Your bags and luggage don’t get a seat. If your belongings won’t fit on your lap, put them on the floor — out of the way of other passengers.

Careful with the Metro door. Don’t try to hold the doors open. Trust us on this one, it will close on you. Railcar doors don’t operate like elevator doors and will not bounce back. By trying to hold or force them open, you can create a door problem that ends up putting the train out of service– and making other riders very angry with you. If you are traveling with family, stick close together and board as quickly as possible to avoid leaving anyone behind. If for some reason a child or anyone in your group is left behind, Metro’s advice is to go to the next station and see the station manager, and they will help you get reunited. It happens and they are used to dealing with it.

Keep walking. When you get to the end of the escalator platform, keep walking. We know you need to read directions, or figure out where you’re going but find a safe place away from the escalators to do it. Lots of riders may be rushing down the escalators to catch a train.

Keep your eyes off your cell phone and watch where you’re going. This one is for all of us. Distracted walking is a leading cause of accidents in the Metro system. Those incidents include getting caught in train doors and falling down the escalator or while on the trains or in stations. Metro’s most recent report on injuries suggested that the most frequent type of injury in the rail system results from slips, trips and falls of people walking and riding on the escalators while looking at cell phones. Don’t do it, plus it slows everyone down.

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