Locals know what this means: crowding on the Metro. And I don’t mean to alarm you, but some of these people will probably stand on the left on the escalators.
But we don’t blame them! We can’t blame them. They are visitors, and if you are new in town how would you know the local customs? That’s where we come in. We’ve gathered some Metro-related tips and basic pointers for out-of-towners (or for new transplants, or even for locals who rarely ride the Metro and want a refresher).
Please send this along to anyone you know making a trip to the D.C. area. And add your own tips or suggestions in the comments section below.
Some things to note:
• Stand on the Right: This is probably the single most important rule, and it comes into play before you board a train. If you are on the escalator and aren’t walking, stand on the right. If you are on the escalator and want to walk, stay to the left. It’s as simple as that.
• Fare: Before you enter the system, make sure you have enough fare for you (and everyone you’re with) to get out of the system. The fare machines in each station have information on how much it costs to get from Point A to Point B and back. If you have any questions, just ask a station manager or a local you see filling up their card at the fare machines.
• Farecards: The paper farecards say on them how much money they hold. When you are exiting a station, the paper farecard will pop back out with your fare deducted. If you have exactly the right amount of money left for your trip, the card won’t pop back out when you leave the station.
• Farecards, Part II: The farecards are a bit temperamental here. (We blame partisan politics.) If you hold them particularly close to a cellphone, or a magnet, or a human body, they could be wonky when you get to a station. If your card doesn’t work, go see the station manager.
• Keep Moving: When you get off of a train, elevator or escalator in an unfamiliar area, it’s easy to stop and get your bearings. Please don’t do that. If you step off of a train or an escalator and come to a complete stop, this will cause a bottleneck for people trying to get on or off of the train. Make sure to move out of the way so these spots don’t get jammed up. (Even if you just step off to the side, it will help folks moving in a hurry.)
• Don’t Crowd the Doors: Check the system maps before you hop on a train. Know how many stops you need to ride. And when you board a train, don’t just stop at the doors. Try to move to the middle of the train so other people can board as well.
• Let Riders Off First : Alas, even local travelers neglect this one. When train doors open, let people get off the train before you board the train.
• Metro Doors: ...but don’t take too long before boarding. Just because you saw the doors on a rail car stay open for 25 seconds at one stop doesn’t mean they will stay open at the next one. It can vary depending on the train operator.
• Know Your Line and Destination: This one seems obvious, but it’s worth noting. Make sure you know which line you are boarding and where you are going before you head down to the platform. Here’s a system map and here’s a list of stations. (Again, if you are worried you’re waiting for the wrong train, feel free to ask someone who looks like they know what they are doing.)
• There Will Be Delays: Yes, sometimes there are planned delays. Other times, there will be problems and some trains will run late. Sometimes the display boards at stations showing train arrival times won’t be reliable. If you travel at peak times, some trains could be too crowded to accept additional riders. If you need to be somewhere at a very specific time, leave early and give yourself plenty of time to account for delays.
• Travel at Off-Peak Times: Metro’s fares are at their highest on weekdays between 7:30 and 9 a.m. and between 4:30 and 6 p.m. The cheapest times to travel on weekdays are between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and between 7 p.m. and when the system closes.
• Discounts for Children and Seniors: An adult paying full fare can bring up to two children (age 4 and younger) to ride the Metro for free. If the child is 5 or older, they pay the adult fare. Seniors (as well as people with disabilities or anyone with a Medicare card and photo ID) pay half of the regular fare.
• No Food or Drink: This one’s self-explanatory. Don’t eat or drink on the trains or in the stations. If you see someone eating or drinking something, feel free to silently judge them. Congrats! You are an honorary Washingtonian.