The Washington area is served by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, one of the most efficient, clean and safe transportation systems in the world (see www.wmata.com for more information). Scholars can take the metro or a bus to locations throughout the city of Washington, DC, suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia.
I would strongly recommend buying a SmarTrip card ($10 cost with $5 transportation credit), which works on the Metro as well as on Metrobus, the D.C. Circulator, and many other suburban bus systems (saving you the headache of correct change and providing a discount on transfers). In addition, riders using SmarTrip get a 25¢ discount on all fares. The cards use radio-frequency technology and are used by simply touching the SmarTrip to a target on the fare gate. SmarTrip cards can be bought online, at Metro stations with parking, and at all D.C.-area CVS stores.
One flaw, though, is irregularity of service caused primarily by near-constant weekend track maintenance and periodic breakdowns following a major collision in June 2009. Delays can reach up to 30 minutes without a clear indication of the next train arrival. The Metro also attracts very large crowds during major public events; expect jam-packed stations and trains on July 4 and during any major gathering on the Mall.
Another is that fares fluctuate wildly depending on the day (weekday or weekend), the time of day, and the distance of the trip. Scholars should budget approximately $20-$30 per week, though costs will vary depending on their commute. All internship sites are accessible via public transportation.
- The farecards are needed to both enter and exit the system.
- Remember that absolutely no food or drink is allowed on trains or in stations. If you are carrying food/beverages, keep them closed and in a bag.
- Rider etiquette: Try not to obstruct train doors when passengers are leaving the train; Keep belongings off of the seats; When using escalators in stations, stand on the right, and leave the left side free for those who want to pass.
- Metro train doors do not auto-retract like elevator doors, they will close on you if you try to enter after the warning bell. It’s normally a better idea to wait for the next train than to attempt boarding at the last second. Do not try to block the doors or force them open; this often breaks the doors and forces the operator to take the entire car out of service.
Besides Metro, there is also an extensive bus system in DC. Metrobus has hundreds of routes throughout the greater capital region. It’s geared towards commuters and is not visitor-friendly as there is no central terminal, most stops do not show the route map, and routes take convoluted trips through residential neighborhoods. Nevertheless, Metrobus will take you places hard to reach via Metro or the Circulator, and can be a really convenient, comfortable way to travel if you know which bus to take. WMATA’s website publishes maps and timetables for all individual routes, as well as system maps for its routes in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Most routes cost a flat fare of $1.70 ($1.50 with SmarTrip card). There is also the tourist-friendly D.C. Circulator buses are akin to shuttles since they operate on a predictable fixed route and schedule, and run principally between main attractions and the city’s most popular neighborhoods for visitors. All D.C. Circulator routes run every ten minutes and cost $1. There are currently five, separate routes.
Finally, there is the relatively new Capital Bikeshare network, which has over 1,100 bicycles available at more than 100 stations across the entire city. Visitors may use the service for $7/day or $15 for 3 days, payable by using a credit card at the automated kiosks attached to every Capital Bikeshare station. The daily pass allows for an unlimited number of one-way trips—there’s no need to return a bike to the same station where you got it! However, the service has heavy usage fees after the first half-hour, which escalate from $2-8 per half hour. This is intentional to encourage people to use the system for short place-to-place trips. If you plan on using a bike for an extended period, it is best to simply rent a bike from a local shop.