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FAQ: How Does Metro Work?

Metro station

Washington, DC’s Metro is an easy and efficient option for getting around the region.

Metro closes nightly at midnight. The early closing is part of a larger project to improve Metrorail safety and restore service reliability.

Navigating the Metro

There are just a few basic guidelines to know and you’ll be riding the Metro like a pro!

Metro’s expansive network of tunnels and above ground tracks connect all four quadrants of DC with suburban Virginia and Maryland. The Metro consists of six color-coded lines: Red, Blue, Orange, Yellow, Green and Silver. The lines are connected to each other via transfer stations and many Metro stops are serviced by more than one line.

Each train car has an exterior electronic sign that marks the color and the direction of the train. Direction is indicated by the final station of that line. (For example, if you were at Gallery Place/Chinatown and wanted to ride to Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan, you would get on a train marked Red-Shady Grove).

Popular sightseeing Metro stops include the Smithsonian (Orange, Silver and Blue lines), Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan (Red line) and Gallery Place-Chinatown (Red, Green and Yellow lines). See a map of the Metro system here.

During peak hours (weekdays, 5-9:30 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.), trains usually arrive every 5-6 minutes. At off-peak times, trains come every 12 minutes, while late-night trains arrive every 15-20 minutes. Trains run until midnight every day of the week.

WMATA Metro System Map for Washington, DC

Paying to ride Metro

Metro riders must pay via a SmarTrip card. These are plastic, rechargeable fare cards that can be purchased by cash or credit at any Metro station. You can also purchase your SmarTrip card in advance on Fares are calculated by how many stops you travel and vary during peak and off-peak hours. During peak hours, fares range from $2.15 to $5.90 per trip. During off-peak hours, fares range from $1.75 to $3.60. You can calculate your fare between two stops using Metro’s Trip Planner.

Metro etiquette

The DC Metro is the second busiest in the United States and serves thousands of commuters and visitors each day. Over the years, locals have established a set of unspoken rules that helps everyone move through the system faster and more efficiently. These include:

  • When riding the escalator, STAND to your right, WALK to your left. Standing in a twosome that blocks the left side is strongly (and often loudly) discouraged by your fellow Metro riders.

  • When waiting to board a train, let riders exit the train first before trying to board.

  • If the train is crowded, move to the middle of the car so others can board. You will have time to exit when you arrive at your stop.

  • Be sure and have your SmarTrip card out and ready to swipe when you go through the gate in order to keep the line moving.

  • Station managers are posted at every station and are always available to answer any questions!