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D.C. Commuters vs. Tourists

Springtime is the tensest time for Washington commuters. The rest of the year, we have a tough enough time sharing the roads and rail cars with each other. Springtime brings on the tourists, who don't know their way around and aren't used to anything that we do. The crowding highlights problems with the transportation system.

Here are a couple of letters that reflect those concerns.

Good Morning:
After all of these years with Metro in the D.C. area, why is it that there still are no visitor handouts at Metro stations, directing tourists on what are good times to use Metro instead of having them crowding onto Metro at rush hour and also to stand to the right on the escalators?

Tourists come from around the globe and are not aware of this region's routine in commuting and it is not the tourist's fault. A large sign reading : TOURIST INFORMATION could easily be placed at every entrance to each Metro station, giving a vital information flyer that will not only help the tourists to navigate the Metro system and enjoy all of the attractions available in D.C., but will also reduce the overcrowding of the trains at rush hour. I think the museum should be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. to give tourists more time to see D.C.'s treasures and to allow an extra hour of rush hour without the tourists unknowingly overcrowding the Metro.

A little common sense at administration offices of Metro would work wonders. Apparently Metro officials do not ride Metro, or the above listed suggestions would have been implemented years ago.

Ralph Fritz
Virginia

We talk about roads and bridges as gateways to the nation's capital. Metro stations serve that same purpose. On Monday, I watched Metro employees helping tourists at Smithsonian Station and others as they fumbled with fare cards and puzzled over the maps, but I do think some temporary signs at key stations and some system-wide announcements of user-friendly information would add a lot.

John Catoe, the new general manager at Metro, does insist that his top managers use the transit system. If they've been following his instructions, they know that the trains are crowded at all hours this week, despite the addition of 24 rail cars.

For any tourists looking in, here's a link to the Smithsonian's hours. And here's a link to Metro's visitor information, the sort of useful stuff that could be pushed out more prominently for tourists in the stations.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
For years we have all had to put up with the unbelievably mistimed traffic lights on Constitution Avenue NW. The lights, especially for those traveling northbound from Virginia up Constitution toward the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, seem to be set to create the worst possible traffic jams and gridlock. For those of us who try to find some alternate to the I-395 North afternoon/evening rush parking lot, Constitution would be a decent alternate route if not for the traffic lights.

Beginning with the very first light you hit upon entering the District on Constitution, as one light changes to green, the very next light changes to red. Many of the bisecting roads are close together and even worse, many have little traffic. Yet the lights are all out of synch and combined with all the tour buses, tourists parked illegally, etc., frustration mounts as does one's blood pressure. It also wastes energy, creates more pollution and wastes countless man and woman hours as we sit steaming in our cars.
Eric Crossley
Laurel

I was walking around that western part of the Mall on Monday, but wasn't timing the lights on Constitution. I got a letter complaining about tour buses parked on 14th Street south of Independence Avenue, across from the Holocaust Museum, but when I was there, the four buses parked were doing so legally and not disrupting traffic.

Because I had written a column in Sunday's Post about the traffic congestion on Bacon Drive caused by tour buses loading and unloading during the banned hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., I wanted to check the areas where they can park. There seemed to be plenty of room for them on the south side of the Washington Monument , near the Park Service's visitors tent where you can get a very helpful map of the cherry blossom area, and on newly reopened Daniel French Drive on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial.

The odd thing was that the black and white signs on French Drive -- just like the ones on Bacon Drive to the north -- say that bus parking is banned between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. That has to be a mistake, because those are the perfect hours for them to use French Drive and keep Bacon Drive clear for commuters heading to the Memorial Bridge. Bacon Drive, by the way, was clear of buses during the 20 minutes of afternoon rush that I was watching on Monday.

But you all see more of the intereaction between tourists and commuters than I do. What else is broken about our relationship with visitors and how can we fix it?

By Robert Thomson  |  April 10, 2007; 9:03 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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Next: Transit Riders Invited to Metro Workshop

Comments

Has anybody ever considered making Independence and Constitution Avenues west of the Capitol into one-way streets? Independence would go eastbound (as it already does East of the Capitol) and Constitution would go westbound. It seems to me that this option would be a HUGE benefit to commuters trying to get into and out of the city at each rush hour. The lights could be timed correctly on both sides of the mall and traffic could flow smoothly and much more continually over the Memorial and T.R. bridges. Imagine having all six lanes of traffic headed in one direction with lights timed!

Posted by: Brewer | April 10, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Last week during rush hour I encountered two women traveling together with enormous strollers who entered an Orange Line car through the middle doors at McPherson Square. Each woman proceeded to "park" her stroller in front of the doors on each side of the train, effectively blocking anyone from entering or exiting, then each seated herself on one of the handicapped seats and piled bags and coats on the empty seat next to her. Thinking they were tourists, I smiled and suggested as kindly as possible that they needed to move the strollers before we reached Metro Center, since the train would become very crowded at that point. One of the two sneered at me and said, "We know how to ride Metro, we live here." I guess my point is that not all of the ignorant (fill in your favorite insult) are from out of town!

Posted by: Carrie | April 10, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I too must comment on the stroller issue. I understand that moms want to keep their sleeping babies in strollers and that they do a lot in order to watch the kids. But when did using common sense leave their brains? Was it the day the baby was born?Moms A, B, C, D waiting at East Falls Church talking about how the middle of the train is always so crowded and that it would be better to sit in the front of the train. All 4 agreed but blocked the platform from anyone getting to the front. Orange line comes, they crowd into the middle cars that's packed and can clearly see that the front cars are empty as they passed. They were standing between the front two and middle two cars when the train stopped. Because of their stupidity, I was crowded in with them, only to have them announce to the train, "Someone is going to have to get off so we can get our strollers in, there is room in the first two cars."They keep pushing and pushing their way in, using the strollers as battering rams. One gentlemen decides he's had enough and suggests Moms C and D wait for Moms A and B in the front two cars since they are blocking everyone. The reply..."We're going to New Carrollton, we don't want to be separated for the whole trip." They piled in, delayed the train, then the car emptied at Ballston into the front two cars.If we're going to teach tourists how to ride Metro, shouldn't we teach our own first? Most tourists are smart enough to get by, I say most because they are at least smarter than some of our own who ride the system.

Posted by: Jarrod | April 10, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

On a recent trip to Bethesda, I saw the SmartTrip express lanes for the first time. I love the idea, but I can't figure out why my station, Tourist Nightmare Central (a.k.a. Woodley Park) doesn't have them. The tour groups of 4-year-olds, middle school kids, families, elderly folks, etc. etc. would be able to take their time figuring out the fare gates, while those of us who have mastered the machines could have some designated gates to hurry through as our trains pull in.

I can't think of any station that needs express lanes more, as well as some clear signage, brochures, etc. for the out of towners.

Posted by: EN | April 10, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Something about getting the tourists to step away and let people out of the trains before trying to crowd in would be nice too -- the natives oddly enough seem to have this down and scootch to the sides of the doors, but the tourists don't. C'mon now, we actually have one bit of courtesy down pat, can't we use it?

Also, reminders/enforcement to D.C.ers and visitors that food/drink aren't allowed on Metro would help (got a soda spilled on my suit as we pulled into Gallery Place last week without so much as an apology, dunno if the drinker was a local or not as they got off there and vanished into the crowd, but really...).

Posted by: Grrr.... | April 10, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

C'mon! It's not just tourists! DC residents are no better on Metro than they are behind the wheel of their cars and have as much problems using Metro as anyone else - because they spend weekdays driving to work; on weekends, when they want to go downtown, they take Metro - and find themselves helpless. As for tourists, they simply do not prepare for their trip. I recently visited Prague, but had no problem on their subway because I got online and found out how to get around.

Posted by: Jobo | April 10, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Here's a concept: You could gently explain to tourists (who are usually visibly confused) how the Metro works.

In a minute or two you can explain to them how the farecard machines and turnstiles work. How to read the map and tell the train direction. That the end trains are better for large parties because they are emptier. That unless they want to ruin their day, that waiting for the elevator to take their strollers from platform to ground (or vice versa) is the wisest idea. That if the kids are tired early, to just get 'em on the trains before evening rush hour - especially if they are going to be there over the span of several days.

Because at one time, we were all Metro newbies. And if you travel to NYC or Chicago, wouldn't like to be helped by a friendly native if you don't know how their train systems work?

I did it for years, and the thank you's were always sincere. But the payoff was watching them use the Metro...I won't say like a pro, but not like a totally clueless tourist.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | April 10, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Everyone does something for the first time, and everyone does something stupidly that they do regularly.

Posted by: joe | April 10, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Metro is experimenting with using credit cards at some of the parking garages. As this is probably aimed at tourists can someone at Metro please make signage visable. The only sign at the Vienna Metro is a fabric one on the bridge over 66 on a rail - if you keep your eyes straight ahead you will miss it. They also still have the signs saying you need a smartcard to exit all over the station and the garage. I didn't even realize they had started this till I was exiting the station and saw the credit card reader there. I am afraid that this experiment is going to fail do to lack of publicity not need. Hey I am even tempted to charge my parking even though as a commuter I have a smartcard just to get the statistics up. I feel it is unfair to a tourist to have to deal with the smartcard especially if they don't realize it when they are getting on the train.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

There are three low-cost ways to help tourists understand the rules of the system:

1. Put large obvious signs above or next to the fare gates (and/or on the farecard machines) reminding people "NO FOOD OR DRINK" and other rules.

2. Print these rules along with "Please move to the center of the car" and "Please let passengers exit before attempting to board" ON the farecards. Locals never look at these, but tourists do all the time. You could also say that the farecard will be needed to exit.

3. What about occasional announcements within the system? Instead of just "see it say it" and the long elevator outage announcements, how about "a reminder there there is no eating, drinking, or smoking within the Metrorail system" and similar?

Posted by: nashpaul | April 10, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

What I'm wondering is, on Penn Ave between 10th and 12th, there are signs that say no bus idling, no standing, no parking, etc. Yet, every day during school trip season, there are buses idling/parked in the right lane (eastbound), especially during prime lunch times. It's dangerous for pedestrians because you can't see around the buses. And I thought those signs were put up in case a bus blew up, it wouldn't be outside a federal office building. I have never seen these buses get ticketed.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Yes, please help the tourist navigate our metro system - and - please teach your metro employees to be nicer and polite when people ask them questions. Many of them are so rude, and talk down to you when you ask simple questions. They definately need to be friendlier (are you listening metro employees in those booths!)

Posted by: Meg | April 10, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I saw this exchange on DCist.com. Not sure if it's real, but it put a smile on my face.

Crystal City Metro:
Tourist, looking at a map: "Excuse me? Which line do I take to the Smithsonian?"
Tourist's Wife: "Why is this so confusing? How do people in DC get anywhere?"
Metro Employee: "Look, are you colorblind? Or just plain stupid?"
Tourist and Wife: *silence*
Metro Employee: "Sh**... you colorblind, ain't you?"

Posted by: GhettoBurbs | April 10, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Interesting debate between commuter and tourist interests... always amazes me that the interests of DC residents, that's right, the folks who pay taxes and LIVE in the district, never come to the fore. Tourists treat our city like a theme park, where we are all disney characters there for their amusement and suburban commuters treat our neighborhoods like super highways, driving fast through our streets just to get back to their suburban nests. Neither pay taxes to the District or treat the city, its neighborhoods or its residents as they would treat their own neighborhoods.

Posted by: washington native | April 10, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Signs above the escalators at stations such as Metro Center would help tell tourists (and locals who should know better!) to stand to the right, especially during rush hour. No matter how politely I ask people to stand to the right when I'm trying to catch my train to work, most of them look at me like I'm just being mean. One woman at Dupont station actually followed me just to tell me that I'm rude -because I said "Please stand on the right so people can walk on the left." I agree with Chasmosaur that we natives should take the time to help, but when out-of-towners react to politeness with a big f* you, it's really hard to keep one's temper!

Posted by: trying to play nice | April 10, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Please place larger signs so tourists know to STAND to the RIGHT!!

Posted by: just trying to commute | April 10, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Tourist season sucks for the natives. I remember when I was a newbie. I just followed the flow. Blended right in and had very little trouble navigating and using the system. What bothers me the most about tourists is how they MUST RIDE TOGETHER and stand hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder right next to the doors of the car. Nothing is more irritating than their "I'm a helpless tourist trying to stay safe in this big bad city" schtick.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | April 10, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

'Nothing is more irritating than their "I'm a helpless tourist trying to stay safe in this big bad city" schtick.'

LOL....Still find it ironic that they do this, as this schtick is what seems to make them more liable to get pickpocketed or otherwise have the 'big bad city' bite them in some way since they look like they don't know what they're doing.... :)

Posted by: To CyanSquirrel | April 10, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Let's all take a deep breath (in and out) and chill. I take the Woodley Park Metro every day to Gallery Place and have a zen attitude toward it all. I deal with tourists all year round between the zoo and the large hotels in the neighborhood catering to conventions at Woodley Park and the crushes of people coming and going from events at the Verizon Center. (Very often those events attract thousands of people from the suburbs who rarely take Metro -- not much different than tourists in their level of knowledge.) Every morning my train is filled with commuters from the suburbs. It is one of the more difficult commuting stations, because people rarely get off, but a lot get on (unlike Dupont where a lot get off). A few more on the train in the form of tourists doesn't bring my routine to a crashing halt. I try to remain patient and welcoming. It is certainly busier this time of year, but for me that means I am stopping to help folks a little more often. (E.g. this morning I tried to help a family who was trying to get the last of their party through the gates as a card continued to be rejected.) I have traveled the world as a tourist and had to work to figure out modes of transportation -- both public and private -- on many continents. I have appreciated the assistance I have recieved when needed, but more importantly the patience and/or a welcoming attitude from locals. Public transportation is for the PUBLIC. Some locals need to remember that this isn't their private commuter service and be more open to sharing and to show a little patience. Maybe I am just more used to and open to sharing, since I also share all of my precious few Adams Morgan parking spaces with folks from the suburbs (and other parts of DC) when they come to the zoo during the day and the restaurants and clubs at night. Access to those things are the reason I chose to live in the neighborhood and I won't deny others the right to enjoy them as well.

BTW -- I did hear announcements from my Metro driver this morning providing more specific instructions on Metro etiquette, so they are making some effort. Visible tourist information would be another good idea.

Posted by: DC Resident | April 10, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I won't complain about the out-of-town people who held up most of the 90 end of the 90-10 Metrorail capital cost share.
The ticket system for major attractions (and lots of 9-5, 9-6 museum hours) helps ensure that tourists come into DC during the morning rush. And the ones who do research will be told (1) take Metro, and (2) the Metro lots and garages fill early.

Posted by: WW | April 10, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

The L'Enfant Plaza Station is one of the prime stops for tourists looking for the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. There are three exits from this station: North, which is the closest to Air/Space; West, which leads you into the L'Enfant Plaza Mall (a four-block walk to the Museum); and East, which puts you in the Department of Transportation courtyard (3 blocks away). You might think there would be obvious signing directing the Air/Space tourists to the North exit. However I often see small groups of non-DC'ers wandering aimlessly outside of the East and West portals. What exacerbates this situation is the huge graphic of an astronaut floating in space above the EAST exit. Hey Metro, how about adding a banner that reads "Notwithstanding this huge photograph of an astronaut, this is NOT the exit to the Air and Space Museum. Turn around, go back and turn Right and exit to the North." Better yet, move that photo to the North exit, and add a sign or two.

Posted by: Air&Space Confusion | April 10, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

My pet peeve is the hoards of teenagers acting like they own the place. On Fridays I leave work early and the trains are full of HS students, talking loudly with lots of profanity, like it doesn't occur to them that they might be offending somebody. (Not to mentions teens with baby strollers - combining the worst of teenhood and clueless motherhood.)

Posted by: LW | April 10, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Going back to the very first comment - a point of clarification...Independence Ave from the Capitol eastbound in the evening is not one-way, it does however go to 3 lanes versus 1 westbound...and it does really help get people through. Indep. Ave has timing light issues like Const., such as red lights for "cross streets" with non-existent traffic...also people making illegal turns left across traffic and blocking the left lanes, no left turn green arrows...

Posted by: notatourist | April 10, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I love the folks (all kinds) that fumble at the exit areas looking for their metro tickets -- you got in, why can't you keep the ticket IN YOUR HAND for the whole trip? Or if you know your stop is coming, start looking then! Or step to the side as you dig into your bags.

I like the "rules" on the back of the card. I had to laugh -- I got a card a few weeks back that had an ad for the 2007 auto show...Which was in JANUARY!

Posted by: Columbia, MD | April 10, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Tourists can be a souce of irritation and humor.

About 20 years ago I was taking the yellow line from Huntington to DC. It was a Saturday afternoon. As we passed over the Potomac, a plane was coming in to land at DCA. The tourists, not knowing an airport was nearby, thought the plane was going to crash into the train and all hit the ground! Very funny to us and embarassing to them.

Last year I was on the Orange line downtown. There was a tourist couple on the crowded train, the two of them, me, and a young black woman were sharing a pole. The tourist woman said to her husband "I like DC, but there are too many people here!" We all heard it and rolled our eyes. About 10 seconds later, the same woman turns to the young black woman and asks "Where do we go to see the FBI?" The young woman, not missing a beat, said "Minnesota Ave. And tonight they are having a special nighttime gun display. Starts at 11 p.m.!" To which the tourist lady said "Great! We'll go to Minnesota Avenue at 11 p.m.!". They then got off the train.

I high-fived the young lady. Very cool comeback on her part.

Posted by: Dan | April 10, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I think that the tourists need to take some personal responsibility and do a little research about how to use Metro BEFORE they arrive. I have traveled many places and before I go to visit a new city, I go to their public transport website and find the info on how to use the system. I've never had any problems, even in places where I don't speak the language.

Posted by: NotTheRedBaron | April 10, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

" Yes, please help the tourist navigate our metro system - and - please teach your metro employees to be nicer and polite when people ask them questions. Many of them are so rude, and talk down to you when you ask simple questions. They definately need to be friendlier (are you listening metro employees in those booths!)"

I couldn't agree more. If I ever need to come into contact with a Metro Employee to reset my SmartCard or deal with any other issues, 95% of the time I get someone disinterested and seemingly unwilling to help. I've even gotten hit on before by a station manager, come on!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Please, no more annoucements on metro. We are bombarded by enough sound, why do I have to put up with even more (barely comprehensible) annoucements?

One of my big pet peeves with tourists are those that do not let people off the train first. They scurry onto the train, practically knocking me over in the process, because they are afraid the train will only stop for 5 secs and leave them on the platform.

All in all though, tourists are pretty easy to spot and I just try to take it with a grain of salt most of the time.

Posted by: Laura | April 10, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

In reference to the poster regarding paying for parking with your credit card: I believe this is a pilot program only available at a few locations right now. It's not at the point where they would mass advertise it yet. Also, I think metro stands to make more off the revenue from tourists who buy smart cards. I think the paying with credit cards is more aimed at those local people who only occasionally take the metro (or perhaps only occasionally park and take metro).

Posted by: Laura | April 10, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

dan - I hope the next time you accidently make what a stranger regards as a rude comment they play a natsy practical joke on you. By the way what is so bad about saying the city is more crowded than she likes? There are times I wish the metro was less crowded too.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

"I can't think of any station that needs express lanes more, as well as some clear signage, brochures, etc. for the out of towners."

I believe the express lanes are still in the pilot stage and are being tested at a few stations. I completely agree with you though that they should go ahead and install these at high traffic tourist stations (Woodley Park, Smithsonian, L'fant Plaza, College Park, etc.)

The one thing to be aware of is that it's hard to put signage up for these gates. If you put signs above them it's generally too high for most people to recognize and if you put signs next to them, they are usually blocked from view by people.

I think people have figured them out in bethesda, but when they first installed them you should have seen how many people would try to put their paper farecard in a slot that did not exist. And these were regular metro riders. Think about the thousands of different unknowing tourists dealing with this type of thing. May become more of a curse than a blessing for you.

Posted by: Laura | April 10, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

"By the way what is so bad about saying the city is more crowded than she likes?"

Um...it's a city. Which means lots of people. Don't go to a city if you don't like crowds. And don't go to a city with lots of tourists at the height of tourist season if you really don't like crowds. I'm sure you would raise your eyebrows at me if I went into the woods and said "Gosh, I wish there weren't so many trees here."

Posted by: Laura | April 10, 2007 5:14 PM | Report abuse

True I would raise my eyebrows at you Laura, but when you asked the way back to the lodge I wouldn't send you the long way around where coyotes had been spotted. I raise my eyebrows at tourists too, I just don't think mean practical jokes (unknown area, not the best reputation, late at night) was warranted.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Well I agree that they should have corrected the people on the Minn. Ave. situation. But I was commenting just on the fact that they were bothered by a large city with a crowded public transportation system. I mean really. What did they expect?

Again though, I just take it with a grain of salt when tourists are around and tell myself "they just don't know any better"

Posted by: Laura | April 10, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Anonymous replier to Dan:
Cities are, by definition, urban areas...high density areas. They're supposed to be crowded. I think the tourist's comment came across as elitist and snobbish at the time. The irony is the tourists' presence was adding to the crowding. ;-)

It's offensive (more annoying actually) to city dwellers to hear that, akin to white people going to the Deep South and commenting that they like the South except that it has too many black people. See? It's like a duh moment. And unfortunately, tourists have lots of those around here.

Regarding Laura's comment: I've shouted at people trying to push on before even one person has disembarked. I've had urges to physically push them back and barrel out the door, but have never had the balls to do so cuz I'm a woman. It's rude and inconsiderate behavior on their part and has no place in a civil place like DC (snorts). Anyone else actually gone so far as to push people aside, or did you see it happen? How did they react? I'm dying of curiosity.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | April 10, 2007 5:40 PM | Report abuse

If you do not like tourists, then quit riding Metro. Chances are you are from somewhere else and were once a tourist yourself. There are plenty of local people who do not abide by the rules and customs. I would much rather deal with the occasional stroller Nazi on Metro than live with the filthy NYC subway -- and do not try telling me it is more reliable than Metro because I lived there and it is not.

Posted by: LongTime Resident | April 10, 2007 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I type slow...seems my points have already been made ;-)

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | April 10, 2007 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Ever notice how if one tourist crosses the street, all the others in the group think they get to go even if the light changes?

It always amazes me how many people visiting DC seem to have their brains dribble out of their heads before they get here. I went across the street to the Shops at National Place to get lunch the other day. Five Guys and Quizno's both operate the same way--you order and pay and you get a receipt with a number on it, then you stand around somewhere and when they call your number you go up and get your order. INEVITABLY the tourists stand and wait right at the counter in the way of everyone else who has earlier numbers, and when you say "excuse me" they seem shocked that your order came up before theirs. I see this so often that it truly baffles me--why would anyone stand right at the counter where they're constantly asked to move? (For that matter, why do so many tourists not seem to understand that when I say "excuse me" I am trying ask them to move in a polite fashion? If I say it twice and they don't move, I turn nastier and more New York-ish about it. My theory is that people are so startled when anyone is POLITE these days that they don't know how to react until you are rude to them!)

To give another example, why do people stop right at the bottom of the Metro escalator without moving out of the way? I never see this sort of thing anywhere OTHER than on the Metro. I've shoved people before when they don't respond to "Excuse me," but then, what am I supposed to do? The escalator doesn't stop just because there are people standing in the way at the bottom.

I think part of the problem with Metro is WMATA. Last Monday I wanted to get on the Metro at Metro Center to go to RFK for the Nationals' opener. You would think Metro would anticipate demand to get down to the lower platform for stadium-bound trains, but no, they had two escalators going UP and only one going down, and of course that one was clogged with the "stand to the left" crowd. When the whole thing is jammed, you can forget asking them to move, as they just won't do it.

Finally, to respond to someone's point about strollers, that's not unique to tourists. It amazes me how mothers with strollers expect everyone to get out of the way so that they can walk two or three across and have their conversations. The upper level of Tysons Corner Center (where the walkway is a bit narrower than downstairs) is a fine example. Ladies, I'm NOT going to step into a store entrance, or into the street, so that you can walk two across with your little strollers, ESPECIALLY if you don't say "Excuse me" or otherwise ASK me to move over for you. When I say "Excuse me" to you because you're blocking the whole sidewalk, please get out of the way. You wouldn't drive on the wrong side of the street, so what makes you think that you can take up both sides of the sidewalk?

I suppose what it boils down to for me is that people should just use common sense. Unfortunately, common sense doesn't seem to be too common nowadays!

Posted by: Rich | April 10, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

how about people learn about the system before they use it? Does anyone possess street smarts anymore? The tourists who stick out like sore thumbs (and inevitably do stupid things on the metro) never cease to amaze me.

It takes 10 minutes to look up something on its website and on wikipedia...I swear, are tourists that lazy?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Stand to the right. Stand to the right. Stand to the right. Apply to the head.

We seem to be in a one function mode and never want to get out of our rut. If we jog - we jog every day. So if the blossoms are out and another person might walk that day - we still run. Every day. And if we run up the escelator, we run every day. Even if someone is in our way. If there is great music, we pass it by just as we pass the same spot every day - without any attention to what is happening. Autopilot. I bet someone could be passing out money and few would get anything. They just don't get it. Live. Pay attention. And if you have to stop for someone, just stop. And wait a bit.

Posted by: Gary Masters | April 10, 2007 6:16 PM | Report abuse

I always enjoy riding the Metro even when it's crowded or behind schedule. The cost is reasonable and the connections with buses are excellent. But then I can only compare the Metro experience with that of riding the CTA in Chicago. To escape from a crowded CTA train, I've learned the ability to use my body to push my way out of a crowded train without being overly provocative (plus I always get on the train where I know I will exit near the escalator). On the CTA, I learned to watch my back (literally) to avoid having a pickpocket lift my wallet from my backpack. Always be aware when you feel that others are closing ranks in front and behind you on the escalator or as you are trying to exit from a train because they are thieves working in teams. If you know you have to exit a crowded train at your stop, position yourself near the door or miss getting off the train at your stop. It's possible that many of the tourists or transplanted residents in DC are actually from Chicago or New York City and are bringing the big city rules of public transporation to DC. I hope not, because I definitely feel that riders are more polite on the Metro and aware of each other, tourist or resident, than they are in Chicago.

Posted by: Cathy Hampton | April 10, 2007 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Yes, there are tourists in Woodley Park, but personally, I'd rather have them then not because at least it means I live someplace that others feel is worthwhile to visit. I lived in bland, boring suburbia down south for a few years, and I'll take DC any day over that.

I personally have a problem with SmarTrip Express lanes though, since someone decided that commuter passes could not be encoded onto a SmarTrip card. I use the passes because the cost of the pass is exactly the same as the cost of 10 peak one-way trips for my commute...so that means anytime I ride Metro above and beyond my commuting (to go grocery shopping, visit friends, etc.), those trips are "free". For some people with even longer commutes (from Shady Grove for example), the price of a pass is cheaper than the 10 one-ways without any extra Metro riding! Why can these passes not be encoded onto a SmarTrip card? I feel like I'm being ripped off by Metro, since I'm forced to use an inferior method of payment unless I want to pay a premium. SmarTrip exrpess lanes would be like adding salt to the wound.

Posted by: Woodley Park | April 10, 2007 9:01 PM | Report abuse

What's a commuter pass? I haven't heard of that.

I'd like SmarTrip lanes at L'Enfant. The gaggle of people scratching their heads over the fare card machines is just more than I'm ready for at the end of the day.

Suitcases just drive me nuts as well. I've got no issue moving to another door for the people in wheelchairs. I totally understand why they park right in front of the door, I would too.

But I've got no sympathy for people with suitcases. Not in front of the doors please!

Posted by: RoseG | April 10, 2007 10:16 PM | Report abuse

I don't mind the tourists on Metro..... after all it is America's Subway and it is in their Capital City. I mind the rest of the regular Metro riders. The ones with food and drink every day, who act like they don't know this is illegal. The ones with the radios and iPods playing so loudly that I can hear the music 3 seats away on their earphones. The ones who are so large that they take up two seats. The ones who drape themselves on the handbars, so that no one has anything to hold on to. The large ones that block the doors both on the trains and off the trains. The many ones pulling their lunchboxes on wheels through the stations and on the trains. A special mention to the ones with lunchboxes on wheels when they feel compelled to stop at the top and bottom of the escalators.

Wake u! It isn't the tourist. It is the cynical temporary RESIDENTS of this town, who find themselves superior because they left the farm at some point.

Posted by: Born Here | April 10, 2007 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Commuter passes are the passes you can buy at the "Passes/Farecards" machines...the same machines you use for reloading a SmarTrip card. There are three options:

1) One day pass: $6.50 for unlimited rides on Metro, except you cannot use it before 9:30 AM on weekdays, but you can use it all day on weekends and holidays. These are useful for tourists.

2) 7-day short trip pass: I think it is $22.50. It allows unlimited rides on Metro for a 7-day period, except that it cannot be used on trips where the normal fare charged exceeds $2.20 during rush hour. If you do want to use it during rush hour for a longer trip, you use the Exitfare machine to pay the difference in fare before exiting. This is useful for tourists who are staying in-town for an entire week, or for commuters with short trips who may use Metro in addition to their daily commute.

3) 7-day fast pass: $32.50, unlimited rides on Metro for a week. Useful for commuters with long trips on Metro.

My Metro commute costs $3.25 one-way, or $32.50 per week. I could either pay those fares "a-la-carte" using a SmarTrip card, or use the 7-day fast pass. If I pay a-la-carte, I have to pay a handful of $1.35 fares when I visit friends, go out, or run errands. With the 7-day fast pass, those trips essentially become "free". So obviously I use the fast pass. The maximum peak Metro fare is $3.90 I believe. Anyone who commutes 5 days per week and pays the maximim fare is throwing $6.50 down the drain by using a SmarTrip card instead of a 7-day fast pass. Over a whole year of commuting, that adds up. But the Fast Pass, Short-Trip Pass, and 1-day pass are only available on paper farecards, which means I cannot make use of: SmarTrip Express lanes, Smart Benefits, or the overall ease of use of the SmarTrip card vs the paper cards.

Boston allows you to encode passes on their smart card. NYC recently did a trial whereby they accepted those keychain RFID credit cards at some of their turnstiles, and they allowed users to register their cards with the MTA to take advantage of the $2 bonus for every $10 in fares spent, and also allowed people to code their 1-day, 7-day, and 30-day passes onto the cards. In otherwords, essentially equivalent to allowing passes on Smart Cards. I don't see why Metro can't allow their passes to be used on a SmarTrip card.

Posted by: Woodley Park | April 11, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

There's a nasty incident waiting to happen when somebody comes to a complete/clueless stop at the end of an escalator and people behind keep getting machine-fed into them; Who stampede, or Coconut Grove, anyone?
What's also odd for both tourists and locals is the inability to look through the windows (those rectangle things on the sides of the traincars) to gauge which car, or which set of doors to use. If you see there's a wheelchair passenger- or a screaming kid- move to the next set: not rocket science. And be looking out them to know- ahead of time- whether you go right or left once you step off, rather than taking one step off the train and then stopping (usually in a tourist cluster) to get your bearings/s*** together.
Elevator. Elevator. If you're too lazy to pick up your "lunch box on wheels" (Iove that line), take it on the elevator: it's luggage.

Posted by: Kudos, Rich | April 11, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"I think people have figured them out in bethesda, but when they first installed them you should have seen how many people would try to put their paper farecard in a slot that did not exist. And these were regular metro riders."

No, they haven't figured them out. I exit at Bethesda every evening, with hordes of regular riders (usually no apparent tourists in sight), and believe me, people are still learning. I have a SmarTrip card and I almost always head for the non-express lanes because I'm far less likely to have someone stop dead in their tracks or back into me because they realize they can't go through. You'd think by now they'd get it. (Mornings are better, but you generally don't have a bunch of people hit the fare gates at exactly the same time, the way you do when a train offloads.)

Posted by: jane | April 11, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

"The one thing to be aware of is that it's hard to put signage up for these gates. If you put signs above them it's generally too high for most people to recognize and if you put signs next to them, they are usually blocked from view by people."Wait, they don't make anything that would extend the sign down from the ceiling like rope or wires? That's not a valid excuse, they can put signs at any height they want, it just takes an extra 5 minutes to string them together.There has to be some way to get people off the escalators. At Rosslyn with my "lunchbox on wheels" which in this case was expensive equipment I was transporting for a friend, the elevator was down so I was left to the escalators. While easy to use, it did amaze me the number of people who would stand to the left and then scoff at those trying to walk up. People, move to the right, just like on the highways, fast lane left, slow lane right.

Posted by: Jarrod | April 11, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

In case nayone is still reading and cares...
We've had the escalator accidents - many times. I haven't seen them reported recently, and would like to believe that they aren't happening now, but I don't have a lot of faith in that. The Post, in the mid-80s, reported a total of 30-some such incidents that resulted in hospitalization. I saw one at Ballston in 1981 or 82, with a woman's head dragged across the successive top steps and her hair being pulled under the combplate, her face or scalp bleeding, others falling over her and the other fallen people, shrieks and shouts echoing. It took about 30 seconds for the station attendant to get to the escalator (through the crowd) and shut off the power. Arlington rescue responded, etc.
Pass encoding on cards - There is an explanation and it all makes sense, and I've encouraged the Post people a couple of times to report more about it, but I guess they don't think it's of enough interest to enough people to get into the details beyond the "not now, maybe later" level. Basically, the people and money that could be applied to this have been tied up for a few years on the project that will support the electronic payment system working with most regional transit systems. This may finally be within a few months of completion, several years late, and after that, maybe something else can be worked on. The whole guts of the processing software is being changed out - not an incremental upgrade - on the fly and it wouldn't have made economic sense to put new features into the old software base. I hope they finally manage to bring this project to fruition. I'm not happy about the delays but I think the priorities make sense.

Posted by: WW | April 11, 2007 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Re: Escalator accidents.

Something every Metro rider should know...there is an emergency stop button at the top and bottom of every escalator. Its a red button and it is usually under a plastic cover on the front (as opposed to the top) of the silver portion next to the rubber handrail. I actually used it once when I witnessed a senior citizen fall at the bottom of the escalator at Union Station. Her feet were jammed into the bottom and every step was scraping her back as it went past. The station attendant and EMS responded very quickly and handled the situtation very professionally from what I remembered.

Posted by: Woodley Park | April 11, 2007 6:14 PM | Report abuse

For whatever problems they may cause, tourists bring in millions of dollars to the DC area (where I used to live) and NYC (where I live now). I don't mind stopping to help an out-of-towner figure out the transit system, in fact I'm happy to do it. What I CANNOT stand, and you see this in EVERY city transit system, are families with small children who block the entrances and exits, taking their sweet time and think that no one else is using the public transit system. If I'm using public transit in a foreign city, I NEVER linger in front of the turnstiles reading a map or hold up a bus talking to the driver. I step way to the side, out of the locals' way and then can take all the time I want to look at the map and/or other information and figure out where I'm going. It's just common sense people - are you listening, parents of small children?

Posted by: Former DC resident now NYC | April 12, 2007 12:14 AM | Report abuse

to trying to play nice:

Oh, you *have* to lace it with a heavy southern accent. ;)

"Scuse me...y'all need some help? The Metro can be confusin'...."

"Oh folks, you just don't wanna stand left. Folks around here get mighty angry if you do that since that's our 'fast lane'. Why don't you just scoot on over to the right or keep on movin'. Otherwise people are gonna get angry with you and that's not the way you want to remember your vacation is it?"

Then I revert to my subtle New York accent (born in NYC, raised in NoVA when it wasn't so No and more VA) and all is back to normal ;) Serious attracting of flies with the sweetest of honey.

Sadly, I have no response for the regular commuters who stand left, but it seems to work well for the tourists.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | April 12, 2007 8:40 AM | Report abuse

1. strollers are the enemy. people that insist on traveling with them during rush hour should be turned away or led to the back or front cars. maybe DC should rent out strollers like they do in malls, and have them turned in before entering each metro station.
2. if you do not move to the right on the escalator, i will move you myself.
3. if you haven't had your caffine in the morning before getting on metro, it's no excuse for not paying attention and being slow!
4. no, they don't have sweet tea in DC.
5. if you take 10 mins to RESEARCH the wmata.com website, you too can become a metro genuis.

Posted by: egad! | April 12, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

In my above comment, I noted that it was edited by the Post.

The woman in the crowded train had used a racial slur adjective when describing the "people". That is why the young African-American lady said what she said. It was in response to the racism of the tourists.

Makes better sense now

Posted by: Dan | April 12, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I rarely ride Metro rail, but when I do ride, it's usually to a popular destination such as Gallery Place. I have noticed that every single time in the past four weeks, I've had to say loudly to the people on the escalator in front of me "Move FORWARD please!" because they have come to a dead halt at the top or bottom of the escalator and left no room for anyone to get around them. I can't believe I've had to do this every time. People have to go around these cabbageheaded dolts, who barely seem to comprehend my request. There really is no excuse for this and it's dangerous as well as stupid.

Posted by: Karen | April 12, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe no one's mentioned the penny-flingers... those groups of high-school students (some natives I'm sure, but mostly tourist groups) who throw their spare change down the long escalators at Rosslyn, Woodley Park, etc. For that and many other reasons, a recorded message that reminds chaperones that "Washington is the murder capital of America and that misbehaving children are likely to be shot" would do the trick.

For serious assistance to commuters and casual Metro-riding locals, most stations would benefit from signage that indicates "where" the trains on that side of the platform are going: Washington, Virginia, Maryland by way of Washington. Does any station other than Reagan National Airport do this? I know that it's not as easy as New York where you can simply indicate Uptown, Downtown, Uptown/Bronx and so on, but it's the most FAQ I've gotten from tourists who don't have the slightest clue where Vienna or New Carrollton are.

Posted by: athea | April 12, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

"In my above comment, I noted that it was edited by the Post. The woman in the crowded train had used a racial slur adjective when describing the "people". That is why the young African-American lady said what she said. It was in response to the racism of the tourists. Makes better sense now "

No it doesn't. haven't you heard the saying two wrongs don't make a right? The touris shouldn't have used the word, but that isnt' a good reason to give someone wrong information.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2007 10:26 PM | Report abuse

My sister decided to bring her family into town from Richmond one day for a zoo visit. They were 3 blocks east of the White House when I got a call that they were lost. I directed them to the zoo over the phone and then asked, why didn't you check a map? She replied that they assumed there would be signs with directions on 95 because it's a major tourist attraction. I reminded them that the city is packed with major tourist attractions! They refuse to use metro even though I tell them it's the best way. Sigh...

Posted by: Local Chick | April 13, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

"She replied that they assumed there would be signs with directions on 95 because it's a major tourist attraction. I reminded them that the city is packed with major tourist attractions!"

While you're right, there is a nugget of importance to be gleaned from this, and that is that a lot of the highway signs around here seem to assume that the driver already knows where he's going. The driver who knows where he's going is the one who is least likely to need a sign. The sign should give directions to the person who isn't from this area. For example, the Braddock Road exit from the Beltway has signs that just say "Braddock Road." They don't say anything about where it goes. Maybe that's because it doesn't go into Fairfax City or Annandale so they can't find a real destination, I guess. But consider the signs on the outbound 14th Street Bridge. The bridge is within DC's borders, so the DCDOT maintains the signs. None of the signs tell you that the first exit is for the GW Parkway, whereas anyone who gives directions will tell you to take the GW Parkway to XYZ location. The only signs with the road name are the new ones that VDOT put up within the past two years, but for the out-of-town driver those signs are a bit late.

When you think about it, though, many other North American cities don't have a lot of signs directing drivers to tourist attractions either. New York doesn't have signs pointing the way to Times Square, Battery Park, or Central Park. Montreal has some signs saying "Centre Bell" for the hockey arena, but I don't recall road signs giving directions to Vieux Montreal, for example. I don't recall seeing signs for Stanley Park or Granville Island in Vancouver. Why would DC be any different?

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