The Unofficial DC Metro Travel Etiquette Guide

As tourist season is ramping up here in the DC area, I thought it would be helpful to create a small guide to the DC metro- both for the sanity of tourists and local commuters.

If you are traveling to DC, your first step will be to figure out where you are staying and where you will be visiting. With this info, you will be able to get around nicely.

Use it. Love it. It will save you. At Metro's website, you can input start and end locations to find the most efficient way to travel between points. You can also find the fare for your trip if you know which metro stations you will be closest to. Also, the DC metro rail map is also located on the site.

As you can see above, the Metro system is broken up into 5 colored lines: red, blue, orange, yellow and green. Each white dot on the map is a station. Where there are larger white dots ringed by black, multiple lines stop at the same station.

So.. without further ado, some tips and tricks to avoid the wrath of daily Metro commuters.


-This may be the most important metro rule: While using the escalators, if you are walking, use the left-hand side, if you prefer to just stand, make sure you do it on the right. I must add in, if you are barely walking on the left, please move over so that those of us who prefer to actually move can get past you. Also, if you have bags, etc. make sure they are not taking up the left-hand side of the escalator so that others can still get past you.

-When you reach the top/bottom of the escalator, please KEEP MOVING! If you are on the left, do not stop walking when you are a step or two away from the end of the escalator- everyone behind you will run into each other.

-Once you are off of the escalator DO NOT stop as soon as you step off- those behind you would like to not run into your rear in their attempt to get where they are going. If you are looking around or trying to figure out where you are, take several steps out of the way. In most cases, there is a large "pillar" at the end of the escalator pointing out the direction of each train. This is a good location to move to while deciding where you are going.

-While on the platform, please do not stand in the middle of the walkways. During rush hour especially, it is difficult enough to move around without folks clogging up the walkways.

-When a train arrives, step back from the doors so that folks can exit the train before you try and board. It is perfectly acceptable to form lines on either side of the door. It is very unacceptable to stand directly in front of the doors and then try to get on as soon as the doors open- the train will not leave without you.

-DO NOT stick your hand, leg, bag into the closing doors in order to try to get onto the train. The doors do not bounce back open as an elevator's doors do. The doors will either continue closing and take your hand, leg, bag with the train or you will break the doors, the train will have to offload and everyone will get pissed at you.

On the Train

-When you get onto the train, move to the center of the car to allow others to fill in behind you. One of the most annoying things ever is being shut out of a train because you cannot get on, while the middle of the train is empty. Tourists tend to stay at the front of the car and stand next to the grab bars. Please please PLEASE move in.

-Be aware of your surroundings. See an elderly person? A pregnant lady? Ask them if they would like your seat! If you see sketchy activity, there is often not much you can do about it, but know that there is a call button on each car (I believe at each end of the car) that SHOULD call the train operator who can call for help if necessary. This button can also be activated for medical emergencies. Lastly, be careful with electronics (iPods, iPhones, etc.)- there are many cases of electronics getting stolen.

-Use your hand only to grab the poles. When you lean up against the pole with your body, you remove the possibility of anyone else being able to grab the pole!

-Please do not use the seats for your feet, bags, etc. Leave these for people to sit on!

-If you are lucky enough to have a seat, sit up straight. There is NO need to slouch across both seats. (Men, please don't spread your legs so widely that they take up not only your seat but half of mine. I might be sitting with my legs primly together but that doesn't mean I want yours squishing up against mine.)

-If you insist on making phone calls while on the Metro train, please keep the calls brief or at the very least keep your voice down. The world does not need to hear you chattering on about your personal business while we're trapped next to you.

-When chatting with other passengers riding with you, please don't shout. Keep in mind that you're in public and inside voices should be used.

-If you forget to wear deodorant, by all means, do not stand where you need to hold onto the ceiling bars with your stinky pits in my face.

Personal Hygiene
-When you cough, cover your mouth.

-When you sneeze, cover your nose.

-If you have to blow your nose, try to turn away from people. Please blow your nose instead of continually sniffing.

-Don't paint your nails on the Metro.

-Don't cut your nails on the Metro.

Travel Tips
-When entering the Metro system, you will need either a paper metro card or a plastic SmarTrip card. You can purchase your fare at any Metro station from various kiosks with either cash or credit/debit.

-The "turnstiles" to enter the Metro platform are all marked on the front with either a red NO sign or a green arrow. Obviously green means go and red means no. Please do not try to figure out why your fare card will not work in the turnstiles marked with the red no symbol.

-If at all possible, plan your travels around rush hour, ESPECIALLY if you are traveling with children. Your kids screaming and crying will stress you out as well as everyone around you. Not to mention, it will be so much easier to find your way around without infinity people in your way. Lastly, your stroller takes up a lot of space and makes it difficult for everyone to maneuver.

-If you need to travel on metro with your luggage, consider traveling outside of rush hour. Your bag will take up mucho space that should go to standers and will make it difficult for everyone around you to get in and out of the car.

-If you insist on using a little rolly backpack thing, please be considerate and aware of your surroundings. I cannot tell you how many times I have been cut off by one of those bags because people do not consider the fact that they take up more space than if they were on their own.

-Carrying a backpack? If the train is crowded, please take it off and hold it in your hands so that you don't continuously whip the person behind you with the bag.

-If you listen to an MP3 player, make sure it isn't too loud- not everyone cares to listen to your music.

What do you say DC folks- have I missed anything? Does anyone have any specific questions that I haven't addressed?

Betty  – (May 26, 2010 at 11:49 AM)  

I think to occupy yourself during your commute, you should create a scorecard and find how many of these errors you can find everyday - come on now, have some fun with it - you are a tourist sometimes too, you know

Samantha  – (May 26, 2010 at 11:55 AM)  

However; when I am the tourist, I do try to be courteous and aware of my surroundings- which is more than A LOT of the tourists I see daily do.

Betty  – (May 26, 2010 at 1:30 PM)  

That's because your Mama raised you right :)

Betty  – (May 27, 2010 at 9:29 AM)  

The more I think about it - it should be a bingo card, and when you get bingo, you jump up in the train and yell "BINGO"

Bear Chick  – (May 28, 2010 at 11:04 PM)  

These are great tips, most can be used for any type of commuter transportation in any city. I was recently on Metrolink to LA and some of these would have come in handy with some of the people around me!

GetsOnAtVienna –   – (November 3, 2010 at 10:55 PM)  

I don't think this is something that you can limit to tourists. Commuters should pay attention too. Also, people shouldn't try to start fights on the metro it's just dumb.

I would also like to add a rule that people should not jump up and shout "Bingo."

The BO Comment was funny as hell tho!

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