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The Metro, which opened in 1976, is clean and safe, a convenient way to get around the city—if you're staying near a Metro stop. You can find a list of area hotels indexed with the closest Metro station at stationmasters.com. Metro operates from 5 am weekdays and 7 am weekends, until 3 am Friday and Saturday and midnight the rest of the week. Don't get to the station at the last minute, as trains from the ends of the lines depart before the official closing time. During the weekday peak periods (5-9:30 am and 3-7 pm), trains come along every three to six minutes. At other times and on weekends and holidays, trains run about every 12-15 minutes. Lighted displays at the platforms show estimated arrival and departure times of trains, as well as the number of cars available. Eating, drinking, smoking, and littering in stations and on the trains are strictly prohibited.
The Metro's base fare is $1.95; the actual price you pay depends on the time of day and the distance traveled, which means you might end up paying $5 if you're traveling to a distant station at rush hour. Pay with a SmarTrip card, a rechargeable fare card that can be used throughout the Metro, bus, and parking system, for a 25¢ discount. Up to two children under age five ride free when accompanied by a paying passenger.
Payment and Passes
Buy your ticket at the Farecard machines; they accept coins and crisp $1, $5, $10, or $20 bills. If the machine spits your bill back out at you, try folding and unfolding it lengthwise before asking someone for help. Some newer machines will also accept credit cards. You can buy one-day passes for $9 and seven-day passes for $47. To enter the Metro platform, insert your farecard into the slot on the turnstile and take it out again at the back—you'll need it to exit at your destination. Locals use the SmarTrip card; touch your card to the SmarTrip logo on the turnstile. Buy passes or SmarTrip cards at the Metro Center sales office or online.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (12th and F Sts. NW, sales center, Washington, DC, 20005. 202/637-7000; 202/638-3780 TTY; 202/962-1195 lost and found. www.wmata.com.)
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