The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority operates an expansive Metrorail and Metrobus system in the Washington, DC region, including suburban Northern Virginia and Maryland. With 86 stations and 106 miles of track, Washington, DC’s subway system is the second largest heavy rail transit system in the United States. It is also one of the country’s cleanest, safest and most efficient Metro systems. Visitors will find that Metrorail and Metrobus are a convenient way to navigate the city with rail stops and bus stops dotting the region’s major attractions.
DC’s Metro system operates with five different colored lines (red, orange, blue, yellow and green). Underground stations are marked on the street by a brown column with a large “M” and a ring of color for each line that station offers. Stations can be accessed via escalator and elevator.
Each station is named for nearby landmarks, attractions and neighborhoods. For example, there is a Smithsonian stop on the orange line that is located on the National Mall near the bulk of the city’s Smithsonian museums. Or Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan on the red line, for instance, drops off near the National Zoo, which is located by both the Woodley Park and Adams Morgan neighborhoods.
Each line goes in two directions. The electronic signs in the station and on the train denote the direction it is going with the name of the final stop. For example, if you get on the Metro at the Dupont Circle stop (red line) and you want to go to the Gallery Pl-Chinatown Metro stop (also on the red line), you would look for the side of the track labeled Glenmont, which is the final stop on the red line. Make sure to view the Metro map before planning your journey.
The Metrobus operates across DC, Virginia and Maryland with 1,500 stops marked by red, white and blue signs. Maps are available at Metro stations. Routes are denoted with a number and destination.
Metrorail and Metrobus work on a farecard system. Each person must have their own farecard to ride Metro. Farecards can be purchased in all Metrorail stations at fare vending machines. Most machines accept credit cards, debit cards and cash. You may also pre-purchase farecards worth $10 or $20 online and have the cards mailed to you. Farecards are paper and can be reloaded at vending machines throughout your trip.
While farecards are available and accepted, most locals use electronic SmarTrip® cards and visitors are encouraged to do the same. These plastic cards are loaded with a computer chip and keep track of the value of your card. These are available for purchase at vending machines in all Metro stations where parking is also available. Please note, SmarTrip® cards are the only accepted form of payment for parking at Metro parking lots. You can also pre-purchase SmarTrip® cards online.
One day passes can also be purchased for $14 and include unlimited trips. If you need help determining how much fare you'll need, use Metro’s Trip Planner.
Riding the Metro is an easy and convenient way to get around DC. If this your first Metro trip, here are a few tips to remember:
1) When taking the escalator, remember “Stand to the right, walk to the left.” It’s an unspoken rule on the Metro that riders will keep the left side of the escalator clear for those that want to pass, especially during rush hour!
2) Rush hour for Metro is from 5-9:30 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. Please keep in mind the Metro is very crowded during these hours.
3) If you are using a farecard to enter the station: insert the card into the slot on the right of the entrance gate and the yellow gates will open. Your farecard will pop up on your right above the yellow gates. Take your card and continue through the gate. If you’re using a SmarTrip® card, swipe your card on the magnetic circle on the top right of the gate.
4) The Metro doors do not have sensors like an elevator!! When you hear a chime and the Metro conductor says the doors are closing, do not try to squeeze on a crowded train. The doors may close on you. When this happens, the Metro conductor may choose to unload the whole train. It is always best to simply wait for the next train and board safely.
5) Be sure and use Metro’s Rider Tools to help you navigate the Metrorail and Metrobus. Metro’s Rider Tools, available online including mobile devices, offer real-time arrival information and other helpful tips.