No Car No Problem: Navigating the DMV Metro

Posted on Tuesday, Jul 06, 2021

My biggest concern about temporarily residing in D.C. was living life without my car. My mom often refers to me as “directionally challenged” because I frequently manage to get lost. This, coupled with the fact that I had no previous experience with relying on public transportation, led me to believe the metro would not be my friend. I imagined the system would be inconvenient, overwhelming, and too difficult to navigate. I was more nervous about the potential commute to my new job than I was about the job itself! (Jokes on me, I work from home.)
Thankfully, I was wrong. After only one trip, I learned that the metro is incredibly user friendly and impressively mapped. The lines are color coded, stops are clearly announced, and while you have to prepare yourself to conquer most of this city on foot, the metro will be your best friend, not your enemy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love and miss driving. But my fears about navigating the DMV metro system, which spans the District, Virginia and Maryland, quickly dissipated once I learned the following do’s and don’ts of D.C. travel:
  1. Use the virtual and easily reloadable SmartTrip metro card via your Apple wallet on your phone, or the android equivalent. 
  2. Put your destination into Apple (or Google) maps, switch the mode of transportation to public, and your phone will tell you exactly which metro lines to take, how many stops, and when and where to switch lines, if needed. You’ll only need this the first couple times you travel, or if you’re going to a new place for the first time.
  3. If you have an Apple watch, Apple maps prompts you via that as well.
  4. Pay attention to the stops! The metro moves fast and it’s easy to miss yours if you zone out.
  1. Bother getting a metro card (lookin’ at you Tori), just use the app!
  2. Let your phone die. Chances are you’ll always have your phone with you, but if it’s dead you can’t scan it entering and leaving the metro.
  3. Expect the metro to always be on time. Delays are semi-frequent, and the metro comes in less frequent increments during nights and weekends.
  4. Get too close to the train tracks. You’ll concern onlookers and get honked at by conductors. Safety first!
To future interns: Enjoy your time in D.C. - I hope you love all the places the metro takes you as much as we did.

Devin Graham
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority 
Washington, D.C. | Summer 2021