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Getting Around in Washington

Despite Washington's infamous reputation for insurmountable road bog, traffic tales tend to be exaggerated. No doubt, gridlock does exist, especially during weekday rush hours on major thoroughfares, and the Capital Beltway can easily become a parking lot anytime of the day. But despite the horror stories it is an easily navigable town, with an uncomplicated grid set up. Just be sure to pay thought to the traffic circles and the fact that certain roads (17th St NW, Rock Creek Parkway) switch from two-way into one-way during rush hour commutes. Weekends and nights are normally quiet when the roads turn into a ghost town after the government employees head home for the day. Parking, however, is not easy during the day even though most street parking is metered, and in the outlying neighbourhoods, Adams Morgan especially, it is literally impossible to find a spot day or night. So if you do find a space, cherish it, keep it, and utilise the excellent public transit system for the remainder of the stay.

Check out for the quick and easy route via public transportion to get you where you want to go.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ( manages the extensive bus (Metrobus) and subway (Metrorail) system that work hand in hand to cover just about every nook of the central district and most of the neighbouring suburbs. Opened in the mid-1970s, Metrorail has long been the envy of other US cities for its upscale and efficient subway loaded with plush trains, 83 well-maintained stations (both underground and over ground) that look straight out of the future. But years of soaring rider traffic are creating some problems with the system's shine as it has been plagued with delays, overcrowding and outages in the last few years. Still, it is the best way to get around town, safe, and exceptionally straightforward to use. It is comprised of five lines ( Red, Orange, Blue, Green, Yellow ) that weave through the city centre before branching out into suburban Maryland and Virginia. A number of the lines overlap allowing for trouble-free transfers to Metrobus or other Metrorail lines. Major transfer hubs include: the Metro Center, L'Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place-Chinatown. System hours: 5:30am-midnight Mon-Thu; 5:30am-3am Fri; 7am-3am Sat; 7am-midnight Sun.

Although there are numerous stations on the Metrorail, they are spread out over a vast area, and although the network is quite detailed, there are still places in the city it does not serve directly and this is where Metrobus comes in handy. Most metro stations are served by multiple bus lines. Fares for both Metrorail and Metrobus start at US$1.20. Various passes, including day and weekly, are also available.

MARC ( suburban rail network stretches into the four counties north of Washington DC, linking with Metrorail on the Red, Orange and Green lines, including stops at Union Station, Silver Spring, New Carrollton and Rockville. It also connects DC with Baltimore.

Virginia Railway Express ( has two lines (Manassas and Fredericksburg) that converge on Washington DC from the Virginia suburbs with stops at Union Station, Crystal City and L'Enfant Plaza.

DC has some of the cheapest cab fares in the country. This is due to the use of a zone scheme rather than meters, although meters always seem to be on the horizon. The city is divided into five main zones and eight subzones, with most fares beginning at US$4 (minus any rush hour surcharges) and escalating by around US$1.50 with each zone change. A map hanging in the back seat of cabs pictures the zones, but it may make little sense so it is best to get a fare quote from the driver before accepting the ride. Taxis are abundant and can be hailed from the street or aquired at various ranks around town. Some cab companies include: Central Cab, Checker, City Cab, DC Flyer and Executive Cab.





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