Riding the Metrorail

Oct. 27, 2003, midnight | By Josh Gottlieb-Miller | 20 years, 7 months ago

The first in a series of articles regarding public transportation, detailing how to participate and practice the system's unspoken etiquette.

The Washington Metropolitan Area may be a vast jungle, but those cats that know how to get around have an instant advantage over their competitors. Within the huge DC area are concert venues, clubs, restaurants, museums and any number of interesting places to be that those lacking a car would have trouble getting to. Enter the Metrorail, the rail system that provides cheap, easy, mass transit around the DC area.

For Metro etiquette, one simple rule applies to almost any situation. You don't know anyone taking the Metro, you don't want to know anyone taking the Metro, and they definitely don't want to know you. Bring along a newspaper, a friend to talk with or spend your time studying the posters or Metrorail maps that litter the Metro. Whatever you do, don't make eye contact with anyone next to you or across from you. Don't start a conversation with anyone next to you or across from you. And if you're the guy who sat down near the cute girl even though you don't know her, don't waste your time hitting on her. Chances are your advances are unwanted.

Be careful if you bring food or drink with you, eating and drinking on the Metro is illegal. If you do get away with it, don't litter, that's just rude. Meanwhile, leaving newspapers or magazines on the Metro isn't looked down upon, you're at least giving somebody something to read when they sit down, rather than something sticky to sit on. Also, try not to bump into anybody if the train is crowded, everybody's short for space.

Though there are exceptions to any rule, most likely you do not belong to the exception, so try not to be rude to complete strangers on the Metro. Every civil society requires its citizens to act for the benefit of each other, even if they're crowded on a smelly, sticky, hot, for all intents and purposes, celebrated cattle car.

Now for actual Metro riding: Metro stations are scattered throughout Maryland, DC, and Virginia, most near large population centers. Blair students are most likely near the Silver Spring or Takoma Park metro stations, for instance. You can identify these and other stations by a large brown pole featuring an M at it's top (and a color stripe for the metro line the stations rests on); these poles are always near the entrance to the closest metro station.

Once you enter the metro station, purchase a fare card from the vending machines; information regarding your fare (depending on distance traveled and time of day, fare's vary between $1.20 and $3.60) will be featured prominently at the kiosk, usually. Make your way through the turnstiles and towards your train (around the station are poles indicating the train's direction from your side of the platform and the train's next stop will be displayed on the train itself).

Make note of the Metrorail system map within the station before you board the train. There are five metro lines (red, yellow, green, orange and blue). If you're destination is on another line, you have to change trains at a transfer station, shown wherever the Metro lines intersect.

Once you've reached your destination, take note of the street names around the metro station, and make sure you know how to get back to the metro station once the event you're attending is over. Metrorail stations open 5:30 a.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. weekends, closes at midnight Sunday to Thursday and is open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

The official metro site can be found at http://www.wmata.com/metrorail/default.cfm.

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