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Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

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Burlington, North...
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Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

I have been reading the posts I could find about the Metro, but my direct question is which type of card should we get. We will be staying in Arlington, from May 27-June4, and will be riding the metro at Crystal City into DC, but I don't know if we will be needing the metrobus or not. We will be visiting DC pretty much daily. So, would it be to my advantage to get a SMARTRIP card where it can be used for both and just reload it as needed? Or should I just get the 7 day fast pass for the rail and then a separate card for the bus? I want whatever is going to be the most economical for us as there are 6 of us. I also am very confused by the maps on the website and the schedules, and trying to figure out what the fare is going to be from one place to the next, but I will keep working at it to hopefully figure it all out. But if there is any advice for that, please give it. Thanks in advance for any suggestions you have.

Washington DC...
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1. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

If you are staying in Crystal City, which is part of Arlington, within walking distance to the Metro and plan to do the typical tourist things, you are unlikely to be using Metrobus. If you find you want to take it somewhere, then just pay the cash fare. The card only makes sense if you ride it a lot.

With the length of your stay, you will probably (depending on how much you ride) save money by getting each person the 7-day Metro Fast Pass. And you will not have to worry about how much an individual ride costs since you will have unlimited rides no matter what the cost.

The cost of a ride on Metro rail varies by day of the week, hour of the day as well as length of the ride. Even regulars have trouble figuring out the exact cost sometimes. Get the Fast Pass and avoid the question completely.

Edited: 20 January 2011, 18:12
Washington DC...
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2. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

The SmarTrip card doesn't make economic sense for most tourists. It is very convenient for riding Metro rail and most of the bus systems around here. If will save a person money when they transfer from one mode to another, as it is the only way to get a free transfer from bus to rail or vice versa. It also saves a bit of cash when riding the bus. But most tourists stay where Metro rail is all they need. Or maybe the Circulator, which only costs $1 anyway. So you have to ride a lot to make up what you pay for the SmarTrip card.

New York City, New...
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3. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

Also -- unlike NYC's Metrocard -- a SmarTrip card has a $5 fee associated with it [I assume that's to cover the cost of administering the program and/or encourage people to recharge & re-use the plastic cards, not just toss 'em and buy new ones]. Every passenger has to have his/her own SmarTrip card, so that means $30 in fees for your party of 6, even before you "load" it with money to pay for fares.

I have a SmarTrip card because I'm in DC enough that I thought the convenience and potential discounts were worth the $5 investment. But I agree with Darrell that most tourists won't find it worthwhile.

FYI, Crystal City is near enough to the Metro stations closest to the usual tourist destinations in DC that even the highest peak fares during rush hours won't be more than $3.25. So you could buy 7-day Short Trip Metrorail Passes for $32.35 each rather than the $47 7-day Fast Pass; that will save you almost $90 (6 x $15).

www.wmata.com/fares/purchase/passes.cfm#rail

Edited: 20 January 2011, 18:51
New York City, New...
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4. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

P.S. Here's WMATA's page for the Crystal City Metro station.

www.wmata.com/rail/station_detail.cfm…

About half-way down the page, there's a Get Fares button; leave the drop-down menu at the default setting of All Other Stations and click the Get Fares button. A chart will unroll on the same screen, showing the schedule of fares. You'll see that you could go as far as the Metro station for the Zoo [Cleveland Park] during top peak times for the $3.25 maximum fare covered by the Short Trip Pass. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any farther-flung destination you might head off to (or return from) during peak hours.

Do you already know about the Metro's Visitor Kit?

wmata.com/getting_around/…visitorkit.cfm

Call the toll-free number and they'll pop one in the mail to you. The Kit will include the very handy, little Pocket Guide, which is also available at all the Metro stations. But you can also print off the Pocket Guide -- which includes a list of notable sightseeing attractions and the like & tells you the Metro stop(s) closest to each one -- at home for reference now.

www.wmata.com/pdfs/pocket_guides/english.pdf

Edited: 20 January 2011, 19:14
Burlington, North...
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5. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

Great info! Thanks! I didn't know about the kit, so I will definitely get that now. It sounds like possibly doing the 7 day pass and paying cash for the bus is probably gonna be the better way to go. I didn't know about the Circulator, so I will have to look into that as well...which might be even more of a savings. Thanks again for the help. I agree that it is very tricky to figure out the fares and I couldn't figure out why some days were higher than others and at different times, but then my husband said that maybe it was because of those that work and are using the system to go back and forth...hadn't thought about that before.

Can I ask one other thing...It seems like a silly question, but haven't seen it posted yet. How quick do you have to be getting on and off the metro? I'm just wondering with kids, I will know to be prepared, with bags in hand, but there are lots of people getting on and off. Are the doors open for a certain amount of time and will they automatically close in the middle of people trying to get on or off? I don't want to be caught in between doors.

Washington DC...
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6. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

The doors are not automatic, they are controlled by the train operator. But that doesn't mean they don't sometimes close while people are still trying to get on, or off. You do need to be prepared. The door DO NOT open if you push the side like an elevator door. And holding the door leads to problems and sometimes the train having to go out of service. Another thing to keep in mind when getting on is to let people off the train first before trying to get on. There is a voice and a signal when the doors are about to close. Pay attention and don't try to beat the doors.

Edited: 21 January 2011, 13:43
New York City, New...
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7. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

Well, you can't dawdle, but you or your kids won't get smashed between the doors. Just be sure to stand on either side of the doors so the passengers coming out of the train can get off more easily and quickly; then step inside, and if possible, move farther inside the train... i.e., don't stay clustered around the door once you're in.

There are passes for the DC Circulator buses as well, and you can order those in advance too:

www.dccirculator.com/index.php…

https:/…

BUT fyi, the Circulator's Purple route -- which is especially popular with tourists because it toodles around the perimeter of National Mall -- is seasonal (usually April 1 - October 1) and operates only on weekends. Here's a map that shows all the Circulator routes:

www.dccirculator.com/index.php…

Washington DC...
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8. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

To make it the easiest and probably cheapest, I would go for a 7 day pass UNLESS you have future plans of visiting DC or have friends who will be visiting. Although the SMARTrip card has an initial fee of $5 before you even put money on it, it doesn't expire. You can use it for years. So it all depends on that way, but if you're in for a one time deal, I'd say week unlimited.

Any place you would want to visit within the city will be metro accessible. While the bus will save you $1.50 you will most likely not take it.

Washington DC...
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9. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

Regarding the doors closing on Metro and kids...

Like it was said-they aren't like elevator doors. When it is time to close, they CLOSE.

You don't say how old your kids are, but make sure you have a plan with them in case you get separated trying to board/disembark a train. My son got pushed back into a train by a RUDE woman last week, and almost went on without us. Luckily he is strong and agile and was able to shove his way through and slip out without being caught in the doors.

My kids know to go to the very next stop, get out, and go to the station kiosk and wait and that I will arrive shortly on the next train to retrieve them. (Or if they get off and I don't to wait at kiosk and I will go downstream one stop and come back.)

Metro "courtesy" protocol is to stand aside and allow all passengers to exit the train, but at peak times, or if the train is emptying a lot of people, the entering passengers will sometimes run out of patience.

If you are two parents, have one exit first, kids in middle and second in the rear. If you can, try to take seats closest to the doors, and be mindful of your needed stop and make your way to the door area before the train comes to the station.

I know this seems obvious, but I "lost " a kid in Oxford Circus on a Friday night in London, and our pre-planning kept the panic to a minimum.

Edited: 21 January 2011, 16:16
Fairfax County...
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10. Re: Metrorail/Metrobus Fares...which card to get

"Metro "courtesy" protocol is to stand aside and allow all passengers to exit the train, but at peak times, or if the train is emptying a lot of people, the entering passengers will sometimes run out of patience."

It is so true. I want to add that, sometimes the conductor also seem to run out patience. At a busy transfer hub like Metro Center, it takes a long time for everyone to get off the train. I have seen a few times where the conductor just start to close the door even with 3 or 4 people still trying to get on the train.

Having a meet up later plan is a good advice.