So Memorial Day has passed, meaning that from now through Labor Day, hordes of tourists will be pouring into the District for various events, concerts, vacations and visits. If you’re reading this and you’re a soon-to-be visitor to our region – or if you’re a resident who has friends or family coming in to visit – we want to encourage you to continue reading. We wish to equip you to better handle and enjoy our transit system with minimal disruption to those of us who live and work here.
It’s a win-win situation.
You don’t want to suffer the embarrassment of being a “District n00b” and we certainly appreciate minimal disruption to our daily commutes. So we’ve gathered up the opinions and suggestions from several District riders and residents and are going to share our golden wisdom with you.
Trust us, it’s best this way.
Unwritten Metro Rule #1: Stand right, walk left. By far and away the biggest rule in the District, this one applies to any escalator you find. Especially those in Metro stations. It’s simple, really. If you plan on resting, gawking, checking out maps, talking, whatever – stand on the right. Allow those of us attempting to transfer lines or hurry to work to jog up the left side. You’ll avoid yelling, disgruntled looks and venomous stares this way.
Unwritten Metro Rule #2: Watch those bags. We know you want to use those nifty wheelie bags or push those massive strollers around, to better facilitate your time in our fair city. But you need to realize something – those bags need to be tucked in near you on the escalators, and those strollers? Don’t even dare take them up the moving stairways. Use an elevator. Nothing drives a DC-ite up the wall more than colliding/tripping over one of these bags stuck out in foot traffic, or being blockaded by a stroller more fit for 4×4 off-roading. Only breaking Rule 1 is worse, in our book.
Unwritten Metro Rule #3: Avoid the fare-gate shuffle. Aside from Rule #1, nothing is more aggravating to DC-ites when their perfectly-timed transit shuffle is foiled by a tourist who waits until they reach the fare gate to find their fare card or SmarTrip card. General rule of thumb? Pull it out when you reach the end of the escalator as you enter the station. That way, you won’t cause us to miss that split-second Red Line transfer and give you an earful.
Unwritten Metro Rule #4: Courtesy. Metro’s doing a push right now with a creepy video about giving up those spacious open seats to the elderly, handicapped and pregnant. While it may look like that’s the best place to park your off-road independent suspension stroller, it’s not. (And if you do, lock those wheels. It’s annoying as heck for women with open-toed shoes to have their toes run over.) And by all means, give up that seat to anyone who looks like they need it.
Unwritten Metro Rule #5: Be quiet. Turn down that iPod. We can hear it. And if you’ve got more than two kids with you? Teach them to use their ‘quiet voice’ on the train. Especially before 9 a.m. Most of us aren’t awake yet.
Unwritten Metro Rule #6: Move to the center of the car. Yes, yes, we make fun of that stupid announcement. But it’s true. If you crowd the car near the doors, you are not only blocking the exit for commuters who need to leave (especially those timing their transfers), you’re making it doubly-hard for people to actually board the train. Nothing’s more embarrassing than when a train conductor berates you over the intercom.
Unwritten Metro Rule #7: Don’t eat or drink. Seriously, don’t. You may be on vacation and think it’s cool to sneak a venti latte onto the train without the WMATA police throwing you to the ground and arresting you, but for those of us commuters who may well end up wearing all or part of your drink, it’s not funny. At all.
Metro Tip #1: Note that many Metro stations are really close together and not worth a transfer. We’re talking only a few blocks here – and besides, wouldn’t the extra leg exercise be beneficial? Be green! Avoid unnecessary transfers. (For example: Farragut West and Farragut North are *really* close together, just on two different lines. And if you’re headed to the Smithsonian, you can get there with a few blocks of effort by getting off at Archives/Navy Memorial, Federal Triangle, or L’Enfant. It’s better than waiting forever in line at the always-packed Smithsonian station.)
Use your map and figure out if you really and truly need to transfer trains. Spending a little extra time working that map (but not breaking Rule 1!) will get you out of the crowds.
Metro Tip #2: Spend the $5 and get that SmarTrip card. It’s worth it. You won’t have to do the stop-and-slip with the fare cards and you’ll look more like a DC-savvy visitor than a slack-jawed tourist.
Auxiliary Tip #2A: Those paper fare cards de-magnetize very easily when near another card with a magnetic strip. If you want to waste your time trying to reclaim your last balance and reactivate the paper card, go ahead. But you’re better off following Tip #2.
Metro Tip #3: Heading to the Smithsonian Zoo? Take the Red Line to the Cleveland Park exit, rather than Woodley Park. The walk is nicer and the station MUCH less crowded.
Metro Tip #4: If you’re driving to an outlying Metro station with parking, be aware that parking fills up fast in the morning. If you’re desperate to get an early start, try parking at the next-to-last station, rather than the end of the line. Or, better yet, wait to park after 10 a.m., when you can slip into one of the ‘early permit’ slots that are opened up after then. (And be warned – if you slip into a permit slot even at 9:55, you WILL be ticketed.)
Metro Tip #5: Avoid clumping. Most visitors tend to congregate at the middle of the platform, which congests the middle of the train to bursting. Give some space – and avoid the more aromatic cars in the middle of summer’s heat – by heading up or down the platform towards the ends. Most Metro trains are 6 cars, and the end cars are usually the last to fill up.
Metro Tip #6: Use the bus. It may be slow, but it does go to more places than the train. And it often may be less crowded.
Auxiliary Tip #6A: If a bus looks crushed to the full, don’t get on. Nine times out of ten, there’s another bus right behind it, thanks to traffic-stacking. And that bus will most likely be empty. (This rule does apply on occasion with trains, but isn’t always a sure thing.)
Sidewalk Rule #1: Walk like you drive (unless you’re from Maryland). Walk on the right, pass on the left, don’t wander into oncoming traffic.
Sidewalk Rule #2: Segway doesn’t mean “Road Master.” Just because you can afford to stand on a wheeled platform and whiz around the city does not give you the right to mow people over. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: pretend you’re walking and use appropriate courtesy. Or be prepared to see outraged locals attempt to “knock the tourist off the Segway.”
Driving Rule #1: Obey the box. You know, the intersection. Don’t pull into the crossing lane, don’t sit and wait in the middle of the intersection to turn when the lane is blocked ahead of you (or you’ll get pasted by cross-traffic when the light turns), and for the love of heaven, figure out how the grid system works so you don’t sit in the middle of the road fiddling with your GPS or scouring a map when your route is blocked off due to a sudden motorcade.
Got more tips for our tourists? Drop them in comments!