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Taking Metro to the March for Our Lives? Here are 4 tips to avoid delays.

As many as 500,000 people are expected to attend March for Our Lives in downtown D.C. on March 24. (Video: Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)
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If you’re planning on attending Saturday’s March For Our Lives, Metro is your best bet for reaching downtown D.C.

But you’re going to need to plan your route and itinerary to ensure you don’t get stuck in the crowds that delayed many participants in last year’s Women’s March on Washington on the Mall.

Here are some tips to ease your trip. There also is advice for those of you planning to ride Amtrak or MARC.

The March for Our Lives is Saturday. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Pick one subway line, and stick with it.

According to Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, some of the congestion associated with the Women’s March last year involved the crowds getting off the train, and waiting to exit the station.

That process is easier and faster, he said, if there aren’t a lot of people standing around in downtown stations, waiting to transfer from one line to another.

Instead, he said, passengers should look at the subway line where they will be starting their trip, ride that line toward downtown, and get off at the station that’s closest to the Mall — even if that station requires a few blocks of additional walking.

“They should just stay on the line they came in on. I think it’s a lot easier for everyone,” Wiedefeld said.

2. If you’re planning to drive to a Metro station, have a back-up plan for parking.

In the early-morning hours of last year’s Women’s March, Metro parking garages near the end of the subway lines quickly became oversubscribed, as protesters traveling from the outermost suburbs, and from other states, searched for the first opportunity to park on their drive into the District.

Wiedefeld warned that the same thing may happen this Saturday. So, if you’re planning to park at a station and ride Metro the rest of the way, have a list of alternate stations with parking garages, further toward the center of the system, where you can head if your first-choice station is full.

“We’re always suggesting that people think through their parking options,” Wiedefeld said. “Those end-of-the-line stations, they fill up quickly. So if you can carpool, if you can take a bus to that, if you can take whatever means to get there — that would help. But also think about parking a little bit further down in the system, and make use of those parking lots.”

3. If you’re taking Amtrak or MARC, skip the subway.

For those of you who are traveling into the city on Amtrak or the commuter rail, Metro is warning that you may not be able to transfer to the subway to continue your journey.

By the time Metro trains are approaching downtown, they likely will already be packed with riders traveling in from the outer reaches of the Red Line line.

If you’re arrive at Union Station on MARC or Amtrak, you might need to walk the rest of the way to the rally.

4. Buy a SmarTrip card in advance. Buy a SmarTrip card in advance. Buy a SmarTrip card in advance.

Women’s March attendees from out-of-town may recall the shockingly long waits at some stations for people waiting to buy a SmarTrip card from a fare machine.

In some cases, the line to purchase or re-load fare cards stretched around the parking lot.

Don’t let that be you. If you live close to a station, make an extra trip to fill up a card in advance on Thursday or Friday before the march. Cards are also available at CVS Pharmacy or Giant Food stores.

“We want to try to minimize people trying to load up their cards at the stations,” Wiedefeld said.

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