After living in Washington, D.C. for the past five years, I am a convert. A convert to public transportation, that is. Until I moved to this city, my gold ’95 Honda Accord (please, don’t laugh) was the preferred method of getting from point A to point B in my suburban town. I was pretty unfamiliar with how city commuting worked. I imagined confusing maps with too many colors, a lot of random numbers, accidentally going the wrong direction, and always being a few cents too short. I admit it took me a period of trial and error to get D.C.’s transportation system down pat, but once I did, I never looked back. In this article I want to tell all city-visitors and those city slickers who are still skeptical about all the great reasons to make public transportation your main method of getting around. Here are my tips on how to use public transportation like a true pro.
1. Download the app. It will absolutely become your best friend. Most metropolitan areas with public transportation systems have an accompanying app for smartphones that are equipped with maps, schedules, and a real time schedule that allow you to see exactly when a bus or metro will arrive. This means no more looking at scribbled-on posters or fading signs, just look at your handy personal guide via your phone anytime, anywhere. This is the app I use for Washington, D.C. – it’s great!
2. Buy a rechargeable card. Getting a permanent card you can reload with money is useful if you are going to be using public transportation frequently. Not only does this mean you can have a nice plastic card, as opposed to a flimsy paper card or coins, but it allows you to get right on your bus/metro quickly without stopping to add money.
3. Minimize train transfers to save money and time. Transferring can sometimes lead to extra waiting time and fees, so I do my best to avoid it completely. I like to do this by walking a few extra blocks to the line that takes me directly to my destination. Not to mention getting a few more steps in the day is always beneficial for your health!
4. Follow the unspoken courtesy rules. Sometimes these rules are written (“Save these seats for disabled and elderly passengers.”), but sometimes they are not. For example, be that kind person to give up your seat to a pregnant woman or someone with lots of groceries. Try to help someone with his or her bags and make sure to keep the seat next to you empty so someone else can sit down. Public transportation karma is real, people.
5. Keep your wallet in order. Or your pockets, or your purse, or wherever you store your card/ticket/coins for your journey. Putting these items in the same place every time you commute will help eliminate headaches and minimize impatient groans from passengers behind you as you board and depart.
6. Always travel with water & a granola bar. We don’t live in a perfect world, so sadly public transportation is sometimes unpredictable. Since you can’t predict when a delay may happen or do anything about it when it does, the least you can do is be prepared. I like to always have a drink and small snack on hand at all times because that way, I may be late and annoyed, but at least not thirsty or hungry!
I hope these tips bring you some good ideas and clarity on how to utilize public transportation and enjoy its services. Happy traveling!