Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Jon Stewart rally Metro guide: Some advice on riding the rails this weekend

October 27, 2010 - 11:00 PM
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(Photo: Jay Westcott)

Contrary to what at least one Tea Partier would have you believe, our Metro system is generally a very safe and convenient way to get around town. And if you’re headed to the Stewart rally on Saturday -- or any of this weekend’s large-scale events, for that matter -- it’s going to be your least painful option. With apologies to our local readers who know the system inside-out, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you navigate Metro (maps here).

Where to avoid

One important thing to keep in mind is a nasty little business called single-tracking. Metro has track work scheduled for the weekend -- the agency doesn’t cancel track work for anyone, including Mr. Stewart -- so the Red, Green, and Orange lines are going to have delays of up to a half hour along certain portions where trains heading both ways have to share a track. And delays on a day like Saturday could translate into lots of sweaty, impatient people crowded on Metro platforms. If possible, try to steer clear of these sections:

--Red Line, northwest end, between Shady Grove and Twinbrook.
--Red Line, near downtown, between New York Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue.
--Green Line, between Fort Totten and Prince George’s Plaza.
--Orange Line, between Stadium-Armory and Cheverly.

Don’t board at Stadium-Armory

This Orange/Blue stop in D.C. is where Arianna Huffington’s busloads of minions are headed. Unless they’re walking -- and it’s quite a trek to the Mall from RFK Stadium -- these people will presumably try to climb aboard Metro at the Stadium-Armory stop. A lot of Tea Partiers tried to board here after parking at the Armory for the Glenn Beck rally, and the line leading to the platform was apparently half a block long. Many of them gave up. If you find yourself at RFK amidst a monster crowd, it might be best to simply walk to the Potomac Avenue stop about nine blocks southwest of here.

Where to get off Metro

The stop most accessible to the Mall is Smithsonian. That’s why you don’t want to get off there, or board there after the rally. In all likelihood it will be a madhouse. Fortunately there are a number of other stations clustered around the Mall, plenty of which are good candidates for a Metro exit depending on which line you’re taking: Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange), Federal Center SW (Blue/Orange), L’Enfant Plaza (Yellow/Green and Blue/Orange), and Archives-Navy Memorial (Yellow/Green).

But you don’t even have to restrict yourself to stations in the immediate vicinity of the Mall. Stations like Metro Center (Blue/Orange, Red), Gallery Place (Red, Yellow/Green), and even Capitol South (Blue/Orange) are within pleasant walking distance of the Mall, assuming decent weather. Which gets us to our next point:

Don’t transfer downtown

It’s probably not worth it, certainly not at L’Enfant Plaza and probably not even at Metro Center or Gallery Place. Rather than deal with the wait and the crowds at a transfer station, we advise you make the walk.

Paying for your fare

Please -- please -- do not find yourself downtown in a station short on fare. Rest assured there will be some miserable lines at the fare machines, jam-packed with people who are learning the transaction for the first time. Load up your SmarTrip card or buy a paper fare card ahead of time if you can. (Check out Metro’s trip planner if you want to know ahead of time how much you’ll be put out.) If you’re in from out-of-town and plan on taking more than two Metro trips on Saturday, it’s not a bad idea to buy a one-day pass for $9.

Getting out of there

Don't bother trying to board a train on the periphery of the Mall immediately after the rally. The stations will be jammed. We recommend you instead go find a beer somewhere and wait out the crowds. Your best ally in this line of attack is TBDNight, which will give you the lowdown on D.C. watering holes, including many within walking distance of the Mall.

Lastly: Stand right, walk left

Those are the house rules on our Metro system’s escalators. But this is advice for another day. Everything goes out the window on a day like Saturday.

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