Wednesday, May 09, 2007


It can be called the tale of two rush hours. Rush hour in the morning on the metro is from 5 am to 9:30 am. During rush hour trains should be running about every 5 minutes or so. But that’s not always the case. I’ve noticed a difference in the frequency of trains from what I would call “early rush hour” which lasts until about 7 am and “later rush hour” which is after 7 am.

Later rush hour the trains do indeed arrive about every 5 minutes and sometimes ever quicker than that.

But the interval between trains before 7 am is longer. I notice this because on Mondays and Wednesdays I go to the gym. I try and leave my house around 6:30 so I’m at the gym around 7. I’ve missed a train and had to wait up to 9 minutes for a train. It seems what Metro does is run two trains fairly close together say around 5 to 6 minutes apart and then one train that is around 9 or 10 minutes. It can sometimes make for a frustrating commute.

In general the system is fantastic. It is clean. You are not suppose to eat or drink in the metro rail system. Of course there are those people who decide that the rules apply to everyone but themselves but you run into people like that no matter where you go. The cars are in pretty good shape. Some of them need to be retired but there have been problems in getting new ones. Cost is part of the reason but also the manufacturer has had problems in keeping up with Metro’s demand. Also it seems there are no manufacturers of cars in the US. They come from either Italy or Spain.

Tourist season is now moving into high season and that can always cause some problems. People seem to think the system is so complicated but it is really rather simple. The fare card machines have detailed instructions on how to use them. And station attendants are usually helpful (Metro has greatly improved how its staff responds to customers).

There are a couple of things to remember if you are a tourist in Washington using Metro. There are day passes for $5. So if you are going to be riding around to several places in the course of the day, this is a great way to save money. If you are only going to one place figure out what the round trip fare will cost and put that much money on the card. It will save you time especially if you are riding during rush hour. If you are with a large group of people stand off to one side and figure out how to use the fare card machines. Also with a large group don’t stand in front of all the machines. Nothing will piss off the locals more. And probably the most important unwritten rule is that while on escalators stand to the right so people can walk on the left side. This way you can have a save and pleasant trip on metro rail.

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