It’s Cherry blossom season in DC and the metro has already had 2 record days for traffic. If you’re going to DC on business or pleasure, no matter what time of year, here are some things that we commuters wish you knew about our metrorail system:
1. Don’t Ride at Rush Hour
This one may be asking too much, but it makes a huge difference. If you can put off getting onto metro on weekdays until after 9:30am and be somewhere by 4pm only to get back on around 7pm, it’s huge. There are hundreds of thousands of us and unlike you we’re not on vacation. We have to get to work on time. We work 8+ hours and want to get home to see our families and rest.
You’re between us and that, so please be considerate of that when you can. All we want to do is get home.
2. Walk Left, Stand Right
I thought this was common all over the country, but either some people have never been on an escalator before or it’s not as widespread as I thought. If you’re going to stand on an escalator, do so to the right so that other people can walk.
Even if it doesn’t have a huge effect on our travel times (and it can if we make it to the train before it leaves), it eases the congestion of hundreds of thousands of people trying to get places. And it’s good for you because otherwise some people will try to force their way over you.
3. Move With the Traffic
Move with the people until you’re able to get off to the side. If you’re not sure where you are, find a place where you’re out of the way so that you can consult your map or other reference. People stop at the top and bottom of escalators and nearly cause accidents with actual injuries…not just delays in travel time.
There’s a huge human engine riding the metro and throwing a spike in the works may lead someone to get hurt—tripping on the escalator, knocking you down because you’ve stopped and the two dozen people behind them keep moving. This is serious.
4. Train Doors Don’t Work Like Elevator Doors and Will Hurt You
They’re manually operated by the driver, they have no sensors except to say whether they’re open or closed. When they close, they close. And they close HARD. We commuters are guilty of this one too, jumping through the doors only to have them slam on us. But at least we expect it.
If your child is in those doors when they close, s/he could really hurt. For god’s sake, don’t put your child through this by rushing as the doors close.
The operator will only open the doors long enough to get whatever’s blocking them out. They may open and shut them a few times quickly. So move fast and get yourself or your child inside.
And if the doors are closing, don’t jump through if that could separate you from your family. No matter how hard you try to get the doors open, even if you try to withstand the pain of blocking them with your body, you may not be able to do more than get yourself safely inside. Just wait for the next train.
5. Jammed Doors Can Break the Train
If you jam the train doors to long, you will put the train out of service. The operator doesn’t seem to have a choice on this one, it’s a safety mechanism.
Then everyone has to get off the train. Then they check to make sure everyone is off the train. Then they move the train out of the station.
Now all the trains behind it are backed up. You have hundreds of extra people on the platform. The next three trains get overcrowded as everyone tries to push onto them. It will suck for you, for any small children you have (at rush hour this can mean nearly getting smushed), and for the hundreds of people you inconvenienced.
Commuters and locals break train doors too and I have no idea why. They should know better.
6. Move to the Center of the Car
Ok, we commuters are rubbish at this. Sorry. I’m not, but that’s because I have a long enough ride and no transfers. If I had a shorter ride I might do this too.
But do mind what the conductor says and try to move to the center of the car if you can. Really, if you’re going more than two stations. Then as you’re leaving the station before yours, get up and make your way as possible to the doors. The metro would be a better place if we all did this.
I know there’s a touch of rant—the exasperation of a week+ of overcrowded trains and clueless (and I mean truly clueless….I’m sure you have more of a clue) tourists has tired me out. But it’s all also true. Keeping these few things in mind as you tour DC can help you avoid injury and make you one of the tourists that we regulars are perfectly happy with.