The Metro system in DC is nice and clean, though it is becoming pretty expensive. It is still, however, the best way to get around inside the city. Here are a few suggestions for savig money on using our subway system and hopefully avoiding some of the not so good things.
-avoid rush hour if you can. Natives will be going to work and will be in a big hurry. There is a big financial incentive to skipping rush hour, it is more expensive now! If you wait until after rush hour is over (9 am) the trains will be a bit emptier and you won't be paying as much.
Before you get on the train, make sure there is enough money on your card. When you put your card in and the turnstile doesn't open it is almost always because you don't have enough money on your card, not because there is something wrong with the card. Go to the ADD Fare machines near the escalators and add what you need.
It will be cheaper if you get yourself a smarttrip card- otherwise you will be paying $1 extra each time you use a paper card. You have to factor that extra charge into your fare when you are adding money, otherwise the turnstile will not open when you get to your destination.
If you are having trouble with buying a card, ask the station master first. Natives tend to be rather impatient in the Metro, so save yourself the possibility of unpleasant encounters
**STAND on the RIGHT, please! I have seen some unpleasant encounters when people were standing on the left and people yelled at them for not moving. If you want to walk down the escalator do it on the left side, otherwise stay on the right.
Especially now that there seems to be less lighting in the metro stations...PLEASE look where you are going when you get on an escalator, particularly when it's crowded. People who go with shoelaces untied are asking for trouble.
Let the people on the train get off first, don't try to angle your way in
Bathrooms- Try, as much as possible, to use the bathroom BEFORE you get into the Metro system. Bathrooms in Metro Stations are NOT labelled, you will have to ask the Station Master. There are no public bathrooms, these are in the employee area and some employees may not let you use the loo unless its urgent. Be forewarned.
Entitlement in a Crowded Setting does not Exist
Pet peeve - aisle sitters
This morning I boarded a Metro train to MacPherson Square from East Falls Church, as I have been doing for more than 20 years, but for some reason, perhaps it being Monday, I was simply not in the mood for politesse. I refer to aisle-sitters in crowded trains. Why is it that I am the one responsible for politely asking the person to move in to the window, or to allow me to move in to the window? In other words, why am I the one who is therefore responsible for requesting a seat, and in fact requesting it OVER a senior citizen, a handicapped person, etc., who may be just unwilling to bother? Are we all supposed to be Robin Hoods wresting seats for the needy? Unless the aisle sitter is in some way diminished (and "I'm getting off at the next stop is just weakly passing"), he is exercising individual preference where none is supposed to be expected.
This really does come down to individual versus social. No, you will not "sit where you damn well please," just as you will not "stand where you damn well please" (as on the escalators), because we're trying to move a mass of people, and your cooperation is required, and requested, and you are in the way of others sitting down next to the window, and you know the reason you're doing that is because people are less likely to ask you to move.
There are repeat offenders I notice every day, and I will request their window seats when the train is nearly empty! If that is the intent of aisle sitters, to get my cheeks beside them, I'm fine with that. If they are claustrophobic, I'll try to put them at ease because I understand, the verticle standing close together can be a drag. But don't expect me to constantly ask nicely if I can sit down, OK? You don't have to have the social consciousness of a Marxist to ride the Metro, but it sure as heck helps to be thinking about the other people you're sharing your commute with.
Every Washingtonian will tell you this as one of the first tips for tourists. When on escalators in the Metro, stand to the right if you are not walking up or down the escalators as they move. Just like on the road (in the US and other countries), slower traffic on the right and the left is the fast lane. Please do not stop or hesitate in the left, it can be quite annoying to those fast-paced Washingtonians. Some people are not as forgiving or pleasant as I am (although I have had those grumpy mornings where I have said "Pardon me" gruffly)
Also, if you can, try to avoid the Metro during rush hours unless you are a pro at urban subways. All too often we get the small-town tourist stopping in the middle of pathways trying to find their way and blocking the flow. Do what I do when I am in a place and do not know where I am going: Find a wall and stand against it if there are not alcoves or anything. I just think it is common courtesy to be aware of those around you. :-)
Always, and I do mean always, make sure to stand on the right side of the Metro escalators and leave the left side open for those walking up the escalator steps. Failing to do so will draw the ire of all native Washingtonians.
When entering a Metro car, note the "Priority Seating" area and honor it.
If seating is limited and you'll only be on the car for a short period of time, don't bother grabbing an open seat. Let someone else have it; hopefully they are on a longer trip than you are.
The "right side rule" applies not only to the escalators. If you are using the stairs and walking at a normal pace, stay to the right so that runners and two-step walkers can pass you on the left.
Advice: As with any other bar-coded card (eg hotel room card key), do not carry your Metro fare card next to your cell phone. It will destroy the bar code record and make the card unusable.
Advice: Check the Metro map before embarking on your foray. Check the station where you will enter the Metro, then count off the stops between that and your destination. It is unusual to be able to hear a clear and audible announcement on the train.
It is a local custom that everyone should know from being in big cities & its escalators, stand on the right, and walk on the left. Everyone has their own agenda, so people are in a hurry and some others don't have anything to do...respect all !!
The number one headache that tourists give to Washingtonians is not knowing how to ride the Metro. Stand on the right side of the Metro escalators and leave the left side to let people walk. It's an escalator, so you'll get where you need too. We're just cranky Yankees, so humor us.
Avoid making enemies of the locals by observing the following code of conduct:
-->On Metro escalators, stand to the right; the left side is for walking.
-->When exiting the train, do not stop immediately in front of the doors (likewise when you reach the end of the escalator); if you need to stop and get your bearings, do so out of the main path of travel.
-->When boarding the train, allow passengers to exit the car before you attempt to get in.
-->On crowded trains, move to the middle of the car as much as possible, to allow more passengers to board.
-->When standing aboard the train, don't lean on the vertical poles; leave room for others to hold on.
-->Morning rush is much quieter than afternoon rush; lower your chatter level accordingly.
In this section I have only one main topic and a pet peeve to cover. My main topic is Metro Etiquette. We Washingtonians pride ourselves on having the cleansest and safest subway system in the country. We also pride ourselves on it's efficiency. However, tourist who aren't familiar with the way it operate can slow it down. So please remember the following:
1. STAND ON THE RIGHT (so busy locals can get by, nothing perturbs me more than see 1,000 tourist STAND on both sides of the escalator at busy stations [Smithsonian in particular during the spring]).
2. If your farecard doesn't work the first time you put it in the barrier just go to a station manager (so others can get by, if it doesn't work the first time IT WON'T WORK).
3. Let people off before you attempt to board (locals could afford to remember this also)
4. Be considerate, don't talk too loudly
Also, natives NEVER refer to the city as 'Washington, DC' or even 'Washington'. We say 'DC' or 'the District', we usually don't say the later (newspersons do that).
People in Washington have very little tolerance for tourists on the Metro (Washington's subway). When riding the Metro, avoid rush hour, unless you know exactly where you are going. If you stop to look around the station, you might get knocked over. Also, there is an unwritten rule to stand to the right when riding the escalators--the left side is for walking. Break this rule at your peril.
Take the METRO as much as possible. You can buy a pass that will last you a whole day, or several days, and you can litterally zip all over town going from train to train without a car. Parking is horrendous; if you can avoid it, park out of town and take the rail in -- either the Metro or Amtrak.
Also, guidebooks can help enormously here. I recommend, first, the 'Streetwise' map of Washington, which highlights not only the places to see, but the Metro stops. Second, Bob Sehlinger's 'Unofficial Guide to Washington DC.' These two got me all around town