Mastering the D.C. Metro in 5 Easy Stops, er, Steps

Posted on Monday, Aug 07, 2017

1. Planning is crucial in the DC Metro: Although your immediate reaction may be to rely on your ancestors’ migratory instinct and hunting prowess to find your path through the concrete jungle, you need to suppress that reptilian brain and make sure to plan ahead when riding the metro. This is especially true on the weekends and during holidays, schedules will quickly change and you may not be able to rely on another train following immediately behind the one you missed. Don’t be too proud to download the app! While it may not always update immediately it is invaluable when determining how quickly you need to hoof it to the metro to catch your train or if you can stay at happy hour just a little longer. If nothing else you can use the handy website to ensure that the metro is in fact not on fire, something not without a precedent for our illustrious metro system.​

2.Fake it until you make it: Make sure you look like you know what you’re doing on the metro, this is arguably more important than actually knowing how the metro works. People rely on the metro to commute and make it around the city, they don’t appreciate lost interns blocking up the escalators by standing on the left side (walk left stand right) or by forgetting to put money on your metro card and holding up the line. People are more than happy to explain how to get somewhere, except if you just made them miss their train. Ultimately, nothing makes you more of a local than complaining about the seemingly endless metro closures due to “safetracking” (the Metro’s trite colloquium for closing down large portions of the commuter lines under the guise of doing necessary maintenance). Do this with abandon at every happy hour you attend and no one will think you’re a tourist.  Quietly murmuring about how the metro is delayed again is a great way to earn the begrudging respect of our fellow commuters.

3. Bring a book: Seems simple, helps a lot.

4. Get your Routine Down: Getting into a routine really makes it much easier to navigate the subterranean chaos that is the metro home during rush hour. Once you can autopilot directly on to you stop it makes everything seem less rushed. Especially if you can work a few different redundancies into your routine. Missed the yellow line? Don’t worry you can take the blue line, it’ll just be 15 minutes longer!  Make the most of the little things that make the metro easier. Walk the extra fifteen steps to wait at the start of the platform. On a crowded metro everyone waits at the end of the line, and then rushes into the last car. Be quick to offer your seat to anyone who needs it but don’t be afraid to settle into your seat when it’s a long commute.

5. Expected the unexpected:  Forget everything in Step 4 – the metro will be delayed anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour, possibly cancelled all together. While your immediate reaction might be pure rage at such an inefficient and poorly operating transportation system, try to look on the bright side. For example, if the Blue Line stops randomly and everyone has to get off, you may get to walk by the White House. Don’t worry about being late to work due to metro-malfunction because your boss will understand (and might even be stuck on the same train). A delay can be a great opportunity to treat yourself to breakfast at the nearest Au Bon Pain and catch up on the Post.

Stephen Muela
Environmental Protection Agency - Office of Water
Washington, D.C. | summer 2017