The Metro in Washington, D.C.

Wahington's Dimly-Lit Metro Stations

Wahington's Dimly-Lit Metro Stations

Washington, D.C.

Every city’s metro is different, and Clive and I are still getting used to the system in Washington, D.C.

All the stations we’ve been in so far have the same feel. You’re inside a huge concrete tube with very little light. We don’t know if the city is trying to save electricity or if the darkness is by design. It’s eerie and a major contrast to the brightly-lit stations in Paris, London, Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai.

We hadn’t realised the U.S. recently started using one dollar coins. It struck us as ironic and annoying that:

  1. The ticket machines dump out change in the form of one dollar coins. We put in bills for our first ticket and got five one dollar coins as change.

  2. The ticket machines refuse to accept one dollar coins for ticket purchase. Nor do they take $20. bills. To purchase our second ticket, we had to go back outside and buy postcards to get smaller bills and coins. Lesson learned!

  3. To add insult to injury, next to many ticket machines is a big advertising sign saying, “Use $1. coins. They last for decades.”

Use $1 Coins except in this Machine

Use $1 Coins except in this Machine


Metro entrances are not always well signposted, and several have no ‘M’ sign at all. Outside peak hour, there’s up to a 15-minute wait between trains. As tourists, our impression is despite hordes of visitors year-round, Washington is still a city that caters to people going to and from work. Any great city should do this, but I wonder if Washington could realise even more in the way of significant financial advantage by focusing on making public transport easier for tourists.

We got where we wanted to go, and that’s what’s important. I’ll post a few more Washington images soon.

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3 Responses

  1. Hi Carol,

    The parking garages in State College all give change in $1 coins, which is a pain. Formerly one paid real human beings, but now they just have machines. They claim to take $20 bills, but I have never tried that large a bill because I don’t want to be stuck with all the dollar coins. (Parking in State College only costs $.75 per hour.)

    Speaking of money, however, my Aussie friends nearly went crazy the year they were here because American money is all green, not the pretty colors of the bills from down under!

  2. The metro system is definitely confusing for visitors, especially the pricing. $1 coins are new to me…but perhaps an advance… in the past, you got change all in quarters! Every system has its quirks; some machines in Paris only take coins; others allow you to use bills.

  3. That would be extremely funny . . . .if it weren’t so irritating!!! I love how they try to convince you of the utility of the one-dollar coins while refusing to take them themselves.

    In fact, it would be better if *more* places in the States would take dollar coins, but lord knows we’ve tried several times and it’s never caught on.

    I think the DC Metro is basically quite a good system. It doesn’t have the reach of many of the bigger cities’ systems, it’s true. And I think the worst part is for those who have to commute in from further out from the city — by all accounts the trains are way too full and there never seem to be enough plans to expand service. But it’s clean and safe and you’ll never smell some of the nasty odors that are all too familiar in the Paris Métro, for sure! And it will never be 130 degrees (fahrenheit) on the platforms as it can be on the subway in NY. Ick. All in all, I think it’s rather civilized.

    It’s good to hear from a tourist perspective though, because after all, tourists are a huge clientele of the Metro. I wish you felt better served.

    Interesting reflections!

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