With five lines heading both directions, dozens and dozens of stations and almost 47,000 possible fare combinations, The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) can be confusing…even to seasoned riders. If you’re a visitor to Wasington DC you don’t need to be overwhelmed by the subway system. A little research and planning ahead will make your ride easier. One place to start your research is the metro website.
There are five lines in the underground metro. Color coded they are: Red, Blue, Yellow, Green and Orange. Each train is named by the last station in the direction you want to travel. For example, if you’re at Metro Center and you wanted to get to the Potomac Avenue station, you would board the Orange Line Train to New Carrollton. If you were already at the Potomac Avenue Station and you wanted to get to The Pentagon, you would board the Blue Line to Franconia-Springfield. This is much easier to understand if you re-read this paragraph with a metro map infront of you. Click here to see an interactive subway map.
While the hours of operation are changed during the holidays, trains generally run from 5am until 3am the next morning. While you can usually expect a train about every fifteen minutes, the frequency is shorter during morning and evening rush hours and possibly longer during the rest of the day – it all depends on what station you’re entering and exiting. Track delays are well posted on LED signs located inside each metro station to let you know how long before the next train arrives.
Kiosks located between the escalators and turnstiles at each station sell single use, multi-day use and rigid, plastic “credit card” type of farecards. Cash, credit or debit cards can be used to either purchase new farecards or to reload existing cards. Additionally, you can transfer the balance from a paper farecard to a more permanent one as long as there is a balance of less than $7.00 on the paper card.
Elevators are located at each metro station for persons in wheelchairs, pushing baby carriages or bringing their bicycles along. While the location of the elevators is well marked at a most metro stations, a few such as the Woodley Park station cleverly hide them.
The proliferation of electronic devices has seen an increase in the number of thefts aboard the metro. Put your cell phone, iPad and other gizmos away before you enter the station. If you MUST use a gadget while onboard the train hold it with both hands and DON’T sit near a train car exit point. If a thief spots you they’re quick to grab the gadget from your hand, hopping out of the door just before it closes and the train (with you inside) speeds off.
With a little planning ahead of time, your trip to Washington DC will be made more enjoyable by understanding how the subway works…and when.
WATCH A SLIDESHOW OF WASHINGTON METRO PHOTOGRAPHS. CLICK HERE.