For Incoming Fellows: Navigating the Metro

Chances are, if you’re interning in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area (DMV), you’ll be taking the metro. Fortunately for the DC newcomer, it’s not too difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, it can definitely become expensive, so be sure to budget a large amount for it.


Paying for the Metro

Like many other public transportation services around the country, you’ll need to get a certain card to get the best deal. In DC, it’s called a smart trip card, a sturdy piece of plastic that’ll be your key to navigating around the DMV area. You can order the card online or just get one from just about any metro station vending machine. You can also register that plastic card online and add value online or set it to automatically refill. Otherwise, you can get a paper card pass, but that paper card pass itself will cost an extra dollar for each trip you take. (Already have a paper card pass? You can transfer the value from the paper card pass to your smart trip card at nearly all metro stations.)

Unlike the Boston public transportation, there isn’t one exact flat rate. The rate you pay is based off of which station you get off and what time you use the metro. So, distance doesn’t affect your fee, but what station you choose to get off of does. In addition, if you happen to use the metro when everyone else is using it, (think peak hours), then you’ll have to pay a rate nearly double the off-peak hour rate. Those hours where you’re squeezed every last penny are – opening to 9:30 am and 3-7 pm on the weekdays and midnight to closing on the weekend. The hours for each station are all different.


Using the Metro

The DC Metro is pretty straightforward. There’s no need to worry about getting on an express train or a local train. Instead, the main worry is getting on the right colored train and in the right direction. The routes are decided by the color, and the direction it’s headed in is decided by the very last stop on that route.

However, during rush hour (6:30 am to 9 am and 3:30 pm to 6 pm) in the weekdays, the orange and yellow line will split and go to some extra stops on other routes, as indicated by the routes with white slashes. In addition, on the weekends, the metro runs a much more limited service, as in a train runs through a stop nearly every half hour.



Trip Planner

In DC, punctuality is pretty important. While Google maps can be the useful tool to get you from one place to another, there’s a neat little tool on the DC metro website. It’s called a trip planner. While I’ve only used it specifically for one metro stop to another, it does give exact times for when the metro will stop at the stations and it’s rather scarily accurate. The neat feature is that you can set it to give you directions based on what time you want to arrive at a place. Another feature is that it can give you directions using the bus system, but I have yet to check it out for myself.


Alternate Methods of Public Transportation

             For one low flat rate of $1, you can take the DC Circulator, a long red bus. It can be convenient when the place you’re getting to is still a bit of a ways from a metro station like the Georgetown area.

In addition, there’s the DC bus system that you can take advantage of, but I highly advise using the trip planner feature or Google maps to try to navigate the bus system.

If you live in Maryland and you’re not near a metro stop, you might still be able to get to DC without the use of a car. Maryland offers a commuter bus service from numerous areas, even rural ones. Virginia also offers buses, but mainly throughout the Virginia area.

If you happen to work for a university or are affiliated with one of the many colleges in the DC area, there might be a bus system you can take advantage of.

However you choose to navigate DC, you’ll be able to find your way. Just be sure to save some time to visit the many monuments, memorials, and museums DC has to offer.


-Page Written by Emily Kong

Emily is a current 2014 ILF fellow and a rising junior at Georgetown University. She is majoring in International Politics and is spending this summer interning at the US Agency for International Development.




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