Metro for interns: Tips for newcomers


Metro tip #6: Don’t block the doors. (Jabin Botsford/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Intern Season has once again dawned in and around Washington, which means the region is getting an infusion of commuters unfamiliar with our local customs.

Interns — we’re going to talk directly to the interns for a second here — welcome to Washington. The region’s subway system, known as the Metro, can be daunting for a newbie.

We’re here to help. With some assistance from reader-commuters, we’ve collected tips and guidance for the tired, the poor, the underpaid masses yearning to figure out which train will take them home. (These tips are meant for newcomers, but if you’re a veteran of the system, feel free to enjoy the refresher.)

●The basics: Unlike some other subways, Metro isn’t a 24-hour system. It opens at 5 a.m. on weekdays and at 7 a.m. on weekends, and it closes at midnight on Sunday through Thursday and at 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. (The last trains might leave before the station closes, so look at the posted last train times if you’re expecting a late night.) Another difference: You have to use your Farecard or SmarTrip card every time you enter or exit a station, and you pay every time you leave. Make sure to have your card ready before you get to the turnstile.

●Stand on the right, walk on the left. This is the Golden Rule of the Metro. When you’re on an escalator, stand on the right side and walk on the left side. We cannot emphasize this tip enough. (Submitted by multiple riders.)

●Let riders get off before you board a train. (Submitted by commenter arin123.)

●Don’t board a train, go through a turnstile or get off an escalator and immediately stop. We know, we know: You’re new here. and you don’t know where to go. But if you stop short, everyone behind you is forced to stop, and they will not like this. Keep moving and step off to the side until you get your bearings.

●Give your seat to someone who is pregnant, elderly, disabled or nursing a broken limb. (Submitted by Kirsten in Washington, who speaks from experience: She had a broken arm while she was pregnant. Washington Post columnist John Kelly has written about this topic.)

●Don’t block the doors of a bus or train; if you need to be near the doorway because of crowding, step off at stops to let other people out, then get back on. (Submitted by Erin in Adams Morgan.)

●Get a SmarTrip card. It makes going through the turnstiles a lot faster than the paper cards. They cost $5, and you can buy them at Metro sales offices, some stations and many retail stores. Visit wmata.com/fares/smartrip for more on that. (Submitted by multiple commuters.)

●Look before you sit. You never know what somebody left behind. (Submitted by Cathy in Silver Spring.)

●The train doors aren’t like elevator doors; they won’t automatically reopen if you stick your arm through. So don’t do that. And don’t block a door, because if it can’t close properly, the train could be off-loaded and everyone in the station will know it’s all your fault. (Submitted by commenter Frazil.)

●Expect delays. There often are planned delays because of track work; you can find out about those in advance by visiting wapo.st/drgridlock or wmata.com. There also are lots of unexpected delays that will definitely arise when you are already running late and have an important presentation.

●If you’re using something like an iPad or iPhone and you’re sitting near the door, be careful. Someone could grab your device and dash just before the doors close. One industrious rider recently chased down such a thief but broke his arm in the process. Generally be careful no matter where you’re sitting or standing, really. (Submitted by commenter JuniusPublicus.)

●No food or drink. Yes, you will see other people breaking this rule. But you shouldn’t do it. We both know you’re better than that.

For even more advice, visit wapo.st/drgridlock.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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