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MetroCommuter Hacks

How to Use the Metro in Washington, DC

​1: Buy a SmarTrip card, which makes paying for your rides a breeze.

Bring a credit or debit card to any Metro station and follow the instructions at the electronic kiosks. A station attendant is usually nearby to help if you run into any issues. Allow extra time for the initial purchase and crediting of your card.

2: Bookmark WMATA.com on your smartphone browser before you travel so you’ll never have to look for a Metro train map in the stations or aboard trains.

The trip planner on the homepage is an especially useful tool to plan your trip from door-to-door.

3: Exercise a little escalator etiquette.

If you intend to just stand instead of walk up or down the escalator, stand in a single-file line to the right to allow the speed demons to pass to your left. If you’re carrying luggage, make sure your bags are positioned to the right side as well.

4: Pay attention and move quickly on and off trains.

When boarding Metro trains, first allow room for riders to exit. While you’re on the train, make room for others to enter and exit. Start preparing to exit the train when you arrive one stop before your final destination and move swiftly so the trains can depart on time.

5: Sit every chance you get.

Visitors tend to squeeze a lot of activities into a few short hours. That means a lot of standing and walking. So grab a seat on the train or at the station. Your sore dogs will thank you.

6: Make sure you’re on the right train headed in the right direction.

If you stand on the wrong side of the station platform, you may end up boarding the wrong train or heading in the wrong direction. Double-check the train color (orange, blue, silver, yellow, red and green) listed on the front and side of each car. With multiple lines available at a number of stations, you can easily catch the wrong train.

7: Allow extra time for trips.

A little time buffer can help absorb the blows that come from maintenance issues, long waits (especially on nights and weekends), and large crowds for special events such as Nationals games. Better to be early than late, especially for restaurants looking to pawn off your reserved dinner table to someone else.

8: If you’re lost, ask a local for help.

Local Metro riders are generally nice and helpful. If a local starts making sudden movements, she probably isn’t trying to shank you. She’s likely pointing you in the right direction. Smile and thank her for her help.

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