Tag Archives: Metro

Eleven DC Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

9 Oct

© Fernando Revilla on Creative Commons

11. Don’t take I-66 during rush hour. I blogged about this awhile ago, but it’s worth repeating. Before coming to DC, I had no idea that roads existed that were HOV-only during certain parts of the day. Until I got a ticket on 66 the very first time I’d ever driven on it. (I’m still bitter.)

10. Do invest in a winter coat. I moved to DC from California and couldn’t justify spending a couple hundred dollars on a coat, so the first winter that I lived here I just wore the heaviest jacket I owned. A random woman on the Metro actually admonished me for not having a warmer coat. And, turns out, DC winters are a lot easier to handle when you’re not freezing your ass off.

9. Don’t get too attached. Okay, this is terribly pessimistic of me, I realize, but it’s true. I had a really difficult time when a few friends I had become super close with left the area. DC is a transient city, and friends you meet will usually move eventually. It takes time to find people who aren’t just passing through.

8. Don’t live at an AvalonBay “community.” Avalon owns a bunch of apartment buildings in the DC area, and I was mid-lease when they bought the building I lived in. They have horrible management and don’t care about their residents. I quickly moved out.

7. Don’t shop at Tysons Corner during the holidays. Okay, you can shop at Tysons during the holidays, but be prepared for some anxiety-inducing mayhem. I basically had a nervous breakdown from the crowds a couple years ago, so now I steer clear come November.

6. Do look at the Metro website on the weekend. I was used to taking the Metro on the weekdays, but it took a few mistakes before I realized that weekends are a different story. One time I had to wait over a half an hour for a train because of track maintenance. Now I check the website for delays and either leave earlier or drive.

5. Don’t tempt thieves. I was hiking at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I came back to my car and my window was broken—I had left my purse on the seat. My old roommate had the same thing happen when she parked at West Falls Church Metro and left a coin purse on the console. It’s a fine line between cautious and paranoid, but now I have no problem being the latter.

4. Don’t let angry residents rub off on you. It’s easy to get snippy, cut people off, give tourists dirty looks—a lot of people in DC do it, and I am certainly not casting the first stone (I won’t mention the fist fight I almost got into with a guy at the Library of Congress—not one of my finer moments). But the other day I was crossing a street with a man who went ab-so-lute-ly ballistic when a bus was blocking the crosswalk, and it made me realize there’s no reason to get so upset over minor annoyances. There’s something very satisfying about letting things go.

3. Don’t ask who the House Majority Leader is. When I moved here I knew very little about politics, and when I mentioned in front of coworkers that I didn’t know who Nancy Pelosi was, it was as if I had suddenly grown a third eye. “No Toto, we’re in California anymore.” Now I know a lot more about government and when I don’t, I fake it.

2. Don’t be too impressed. DC probably has the highest percentage of overachievers of any city in the country. People here are impressive. They speak Chinese and they have multiple degrees and they save children from burning buildings for fun on the weekends. But don’t spend too much time comparing yourself to others. (I’m still trying to take my own advice on this one.)

1. Don’t take DC for granted. When you call the DC area home, it’s easy to procrastinate about going to museums and monuments and the Kennedy Center and Rock Creek Park and Jazz in the Sculpture Garden, etc. But you probably won’t live here forever, so now’s the time to take advantage of all that DC has to offer.

Seven Helpful DC Apps

17 Sep

© Eli Duke on Creative Commons

Zipcar: The Zipcar app is super handy for those who use the service. Find and reserve available cars, update your reservation and honk the horn to find your car in a crowded parking lot.

Food Truck Tracker: Is your day incomplete until you eat food from a truck? Then this is the app for you. Find food near your current locale.

Happy Hours: So many happy hours, so little time. Get help with this handy app to find places to go and what they’re offering.

DC Metro Map: A great way to find out where you’re going without looking like a touron with the paper version of the map.

NextTrain DC Metro: This popular app tells you when the next train is coming, particularly helpful during non-rush hour times.

NPS National Mall: Use this app from the National Park Service to navigate the Mall while you get the lay of the land.

Spotcycle: Nothing’s worse than going to return your Capital Bikeshare bike only to find that the docking station is completely full. With this app, you can avoid that annoyance by checking space ahead of time.

12 Metro tips to make your ride more enjoyable (or at least more tolerable)

29 Mar

© David L. Jennings on Creative Commons

12. Choose your car wisely. Ever since the June 22, 2009 accident, Metro opreators are required to pull up to the very front of the platform, and that is often where you’ll find the least crowded car. However, not necessarily! In the morning, I find the third car to be less crowded, and in the afternoon on my way home, it’s the first car. It’s worth figuring out the least crowded for your commute because on busy days it can make the difference between squeezing in and having to wait for the next train.

11. Don’t be an escalefter. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.

10. Who do we appreciate? Eight! I’m not sure why more people don’t pay attention to the number of cars a train has, which is listed on the board. When I see that an eight-car train is coming, I shriek (in my head) “Eureka!” and head for the end of the platform. The last car on an 8-car train is always virtually empty, no matter how packed the other cars are.

9. You have time, I promise. You really, really don’t need to start making your way to the doors while the train is still moving. The only thing that’s going to do is cause you, or someone else, to lose balance. I have never seen or heard of someone not making it out in time, so chillax.

8. Express yourself. I get a lot of my news—admittedly probably too much—from the Washington Post Express. Reading it makes my commute go a whole lot quicker. Insider’s Tip: Many of the stories on the front inside page will help you while listening to that week’s Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me.

7. The announcer suggests moving to the center of the car for a reason. On a crowded train the center of the car is always less crowded than by the doors, yet many people won’t move in even though there’s much more breathing room.

6. Don’t be that person. “Doors closing” means that the doors are closing. Do you really want to be that person who gets a bag stuck in the door? Or worse, the person that causes the doors to malfunction and the train to be offloaded? Awkward!

5. Have an intelligent journey (get it?). You should not only purchase a $5 SmarTrip card, but you should register it. That way when you lose it, which you will eventually do, you won’t lose the money you had on it. Oh, and ideally you should write down your SmarTrip number, otherwise when you call Metro they will give you a-ti-tude.

4. Calm is key. Speaking of SmarTrip, my friend Victoria opines that you don’t need to move your card frantically on the scanner to get it to work. (You’ll notice how many people do this now that I’ve pointed it out.) Just place the card on the scanner and wait a second.

3. Plan ahead. Metro’s online Trip Planner is a great way to plan a trip if you’re going someplace new. You can find out how to get somewhere, how long it will take and approximately when the trains are scheduled to arrive. It also shows bus routes.

2. Don’t be a jerk. If you see a pregnant woman or an elderly person or someone who obviously looks like he/she might need to sit down, ask! There’s too many people on Metro who just bury their nose in a book, pretending they don’t notice.

1. Keep your stuff to yourself. Metro thefts have been on the rise as of late, so avoid flopping your Ipod on the seat next to you or placing your Blackberry in an open bag.

Local Lore: The French fry incident

4 Jan

You'll never look at French fries the same again. © cyclonebill at Creative Commons

If you’ve taken the Metro with any sort of regularity, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that no one eats on the train. Besides the occasional commuter with coffee or a clueless tourist with a candy bar, no one eats on the Metro. How is that possible? How did the Metro system get so many people to cooperate? It’s simple: The French fry incident.

The year was 2000. The day was October 23. It started off as a typical afternoon for two 12-year-old girls as they entered the Tenleytown-AU Metro station. One of the girls, Ansche Hedgepeth, took a French fry out of a bag she was holding and ate it. Unfortunately for her, Metro was in the process of cracking down on illegally eating in the Metro system after rider complaints, and a plainclothes officer saw her. Hedgepeth was handcuffed, searched and taken away. Apparently, minors in DC charged with a crime have to be taken into custody. If she’d been an adult, Hedgepeth would have just received a fine.

The incident made the news and many people baulked at the extreme measures. But setting an example out of Ansche sure had the desired effect. It’s 11 years later and people still remember it. Now if they would only have a zero-tolerance rule for escalefters.

It’s snow time

15 Dec

Snowmaggedon 2010

Without a doubt, my favorite childhood memories are waking up on a school day, peaking outside, seeing a blanket of white, and falling back asleep knowing that my snow dance the night before had worked and that I would be sledding and playing Monopoly that afternoon.

Well, it’s just as good a feeling—if not better—to get a snow day off of work. True, last year’s Snowmaggedon was a bit ridiculous, but even though shoveling out my car is no easy task, it’s worth an unexpected day off.

DC doesn’t get a ton of snow every year (my boyfriend estimates that it’s about every fourth year), which is why when we do get a blizzard we’re pretty unprepared and schools and companies shut down. But here are some tips for the next time it happens.

Check the operating status. The federal government posts delays and closings here, and most other companies and organizations follow its decision. Make sure to find out your work’s policy. The biggest disappointment is when “liberal leave” is in affect, which means that you can take off but you’ll have to use a vacation day. For school closings and delays, check the school’s website or tune into a local radio or TV news program (which often has a scroll at the bottom of the screen).

Capital Weather Gang. During last year’s storms, the Capital Weather Gang was my go-to guide. It’s informative, up-to-date and, at times, even funny.

Get your gear now. Don’t wait until a huge storm is predicted to get shovels, sleds and long underwear. You’ll be out of luck.

Make a plan. What would you do if your power went out for a week? It’s happened to plenty of people in the DC area, and it’s worth thinking about how you would deal with such a situation.

Know what to expect. My apartment complex loans out shovels, which I wish I had known the first two years I lived there. No matter where you live, you should find out from neighbors what your neighborhood is like during a snow storm. Is there an especially slippery sidewalk? A good sledding hill? A road where cars constantly get stuck? These are things you should know.

Check Metro. During snow storms Metro stations located above ground are often closed. Metro buses often aren’t running or are running modified routes. Check the website before you head out.