Each and every day that I head out the door for work, I trek down the street 6 blocks to my Metro Station. The walk is the bulk of my commute, oddly enough. I'm on the Metro for just under 10 minutes, which I'm sure most people wish they could say. Honestly though, I think I would like a little extra time to get through more than three articles and the comics in the Express every morning.
I love taking the Metro, and since I grew up riding the "T" in Boston, the DC transit system is like a little piece of transportation heaven. Believe me; the DC Metro Area has a lot to be thankful for. I understand the complaints many people have about Metro, which for the most part are valid, but do they understand how lucky they are? I think we sometimes take Metro for granted.
With all the recent complaints about Metro I tried to weigh the pros and cons of riding this heavily scrutinized transit system. When I compared the DC's Metrorail with Boston's "T" and the NYC Subway, the truth is, the good things about Metro outweigh the bad. I've found that there are five really good reasons why we should be happy to have the Metrorail.
1.) You always know when the train is coming. The monitors located near each track let you know how many minutes you have to wait until the next train comes. And, if that wasn't enough, it shows the color and the direction as well. Sure, there are the occasional delays, but for the most part, the train comes when the monitor says it will.
2.) The Metro is clean! The "No eating and drinking" rule is one of my favorites. Coming from a city where they sell food inside the station, I can tell you what a relief it is to sit on a seemingly immaculate train every morning. Sure, it would be awesome to sip on a Starbucks latte on your way to work every morning, but the day you sit in a pile of spilled coffee that has been partially cleaned up while you're wearing your favorite light gray A-line skirt, you will never again smile at a coffee-carrying commuter. For a transit provider that just broke their all-time record for monthly ridership at over 21 million in July, they keep those trains extremely clean. The picture to the left shows the Boston "T" with papers and other debris collecting on the train floor.
3.) You only pay for the distance you ride. Since you have to slide your card through the turnstile machine or tap your SmarTrip when you enter and exit, you're only charged for the distance you travel. It makes sense. You only pay for the time you occupy the train. This helps to rationalize the fares you are required to pay. If you ride the train for a further distance you have to pay more money to maintain the condition of the train. Since you get more out of it, you have to put more into it. In other cities, such as Boston and New York, you are charged a flat fee. The person who goes one stop pays the same price as the person that goes ten. Seems a little unfair to the short distance rider. The best part about swiping when you exit is avoiding the medieval exit turnstiles you have use on your way out of flat-fee transit stations.
4.) Metro is foolproof. It is possibly the easiest transit system to understand. There is no Northbound/Southbound, Inbound/Outbound, no letters or numbers, no "we're stopping here today, but we're not stopping the place you thought you could go when you hopped on here, because it's Tuesday, and we don't feel like going there today." It's no wonder why tourists ask so many questions. How is someone from out of town supposed to know what is Inbound and what is Outbound? Metro maps are concrete, the colors are easy to understand, you head in the direction of the trains final point and it doesn't matter which entrance you use, you'll be able to access any track.
5.) Finally, my favorite perk to riding Metro, SmarTrip cards. It's the almost hard as a credit card, paperless, hassle-free, touch-to-ride card that Metro sells for a mere $5. You can add up to $300 and register it online, that way if you lose it, they will send you a new one with the remaining amount on your lost card. You can use it for fares on nearly every area transit provider. It won't become demagnetized, holds up well in a wallet, won't get destroyed when you carelessly toss it in a handbag, and they last forever. Just another reason why we need to cut Metro some slack.