Tips for using Metro on July 4th - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Tips for using Metro on July 4th

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Take it from a veteran D.C. reporter: Metrorail is the way to get into and out of the District on the Fourth of July. But there are some tips you should know that will make your trip easier. And, if you're seeing the fireworks (and riding home on Metro), don't miss the last two tips on my list -- they are crucial.

Here goes:

1. Make sure everyone in your party has a SmarTrip fare card. There is a one dollar per ride surcharge for anyone using the old paper farecards. (I call it the "tourist tax.") SmartTrip cards are now for sale in vending machines at all Metro stations. It's a ten dollar transaction; the machine will issue you a farecard with $8. of value on it. You can purchase a new SmarTrip card with cash or with a credit card.

2. Make sure there's enough money on your existing farecard for a round trip. Add money as you enter the rail system. After the fireworks, the lines to add value to SmarTrip cards are quite long. Let the amateurs wait in line. You should breeze right into the system at the fare gates.

3. Just before and just after the fireworks, try to avoid two stations: Smithsonian and Federal Triangle. They tend to get mobbed. Walk a quarter mile or a half mile to other stations.

4. After the fireworks, everyone tends to leave at once. Consider walking to a hotel, restaurant, or tavern and having a drink or a snack. Then use Metro to go home. (The Fourth of July is a Friday, this year, so trains will run until about 3:00 a.m.)

5. Travel light: carry water and sunscreen. No bicycles are allowed on trains on this busy day. No large coolers will be allowed.

6. The Fourth of July tends to be one of the busier Metrorail days of the year. The system will operate with Saturday hours: 7 a.m. to 3 a.m., but managers plan to "ramp up" train frequency starting at about 2:00 p.m. Just before (and after) the fireworks, trains should be running at "near rush hour service levels."

7. Don't try to "hold open" the train doors. They are not like elevator doors; there is no "bounce-back" feature. Trying to hold open the doors may disable them. That train then may have to be put out of service, and everyone aboard may have to leave the train. This will cause a nightmarish backup.

8. After the fireworks, avoid transferring rail lines. The transfer stations (Metro Center, Gallery Place, and L'Enfant Plaza) will be mobbed. Identify the color line that will take you home, and walk to a station on that line.

9. All trains leaving the central core of the city will be very crowded. If you don't want to stand all the way home, consider a back-tracking strategy I have done several times. Take a train in the opposite direction that you want to go. Take it two or three stops away from downtown, then get off, cross over the platform, and catch a (nearly-empty) inbound train. You'll have a seat all the way home. Happy Independence Day.

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