An Introduction to the D.C. Metro | The Washington Center

An Introduction to the D.C. Metro

There are two types of people: those who are confused by how public transportation works and those who are lying.


In Washington D.C., the Metro train system is used by countless Virginians, Marylanders and Washingtonians on a daily basis. Through my internship, I've used the Metro system religiously and it has become an extension of myself that I have learned to master. When I could finally navigate the Metro without the help of my phone, I felt like Hiccup from "How to Train Your Dragon" after he finally figured out how to fly with Toothless without using a cheat sheet.


Courtesy of


For any future TWC interns out there, I'll share some important points that will make you a pro at navigating the train before you even step foot on a platform:


1. Resources

By the end of my first week of in D.C., I had learned to use the ample resources at my fingertips and all around the Metro stations. One of the most obvious resources to take advantage of is something that Dora consulted at least 3 times in every one of her shows: the map. The map of the Metro is the easiest and most widely available resource. Literally, at every entrance and exit to every station and on each train car is a map of the D.C. Metro like the one pictured below.


The map shows each of the 6 train lines in their many-colored tracks. It also lays out each stop and its location along the line in a very organized fashion, which even I can understand. If for some reason you are not surrounded by one of these cartographer creations, you can have one at your fingertips with an app for your phone. The app iTrans DC Metro contains not only the D.C. Metro map, but a street map that shows the stations and where the stairways from the street levels are. Both of these items have been lifelines for me in my few months here in Washington.

Courtesy of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority website (


2. Watch the Final Destinations

In order to know which direction your train is going, look at the last destination on your respective line. This may sound like an extremely simple thing to comprehend, but it was one of the hardest things to understand, not only for me, but for some of my fellow interns as well.


In order to more accurately explain this "complicated" procedure of reading a map, it's best to use an example. Feel free to reference the map above, the one that (I'm sure) you have already downloaded on to your phone, or as in my case, the print version your dad has printed out because paper is more reliable than telephone devices.


Let's say you want to travel along the red line from Metro Center to Bethesda. If you took your finger and dragged it along the red line to Bethesda, and then kept going, your "little finger that could" would eventually reach the Shady Grove Metro stop. That means that when you go to Metro Center, you will be looking for the red line train to Shady Grove, and it would take you to Bethesda. If you wanted to do the reverse and go from Bethesda to Metro Center, you would simply look at the other ultimate point on the red line, Glenmont, and use that as your direction. Yes, padawan, I too was confused for weeks by this force of logic.



3. "The Value of One Minute..."

There is a poem that has this line: "To know the value of one minute, ask someone who just missed their train." I'll answer that question. It's awful, so don't think about it, because the thought will make you depressed, and you don't want to be depressed when reading a blog. That's like...blogpression. It sounds like a terrible disease.


Anywho, there are ways you can protect yourself from the wrath of blogpression...and from missing your train. At the entrance to every Metro station is a board that tells you how long until the next 3 trains arrive. If you see that your train is 1 minute away, you can break into a run with enough time to make your train and avoid trying to pry the doors open like the Incredible Hulk. So, take care to pay attention to these boards.

While there are many other fun facts and information about the Metro system that I have learned, I have still not learned everything. For example, I couldn't tell you what speed the trains run at, or why they will sometimes stop for a second and then move forward three feet... unless the conductor is a little bit sadistic like myself and just likes to have a laugh at an entire platform moving three feet like a pack of lemmings.


Back to the point: any public transit system will be a bit tricky, but there's no reason that you can't be prepared for what the D.C. Metro has to throw at you. After all, D.C. is one of the most famous tourist cities in America. Tourists don't realize how useless driving is until it is time for them to leave for home. Once you learn the Metro, you can avoid a great deal of unnecessary tourist interaction, as well as get to your location much faster and easier. Now, go underground young people, for this city is run by 24-year-olds and they all take the Metro to get everywhere.

Stay Classy Washington,

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