Washington Metro: A Guide to Using the Washington, D.C. Metrorail

D.C. Metro Hours, Fares, Locations, and More

Rush hour on the Metro, Washington DC, USA
••• Tim Santimore/Getty Images

The Washington Metro, the regional subway system, provides clean, safe and reliable transportation to almost all of the major attractions in Washington, D.C. and extends to the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. Although it is crowded during rush hour and when there is a big event going on downtown, taking the Washington Metro is usually cheaper and easier than finding a place to park in the city. 

There are six Metro lines: 

  • Red - Glenmont to Shady Grove
  • Orange - New Carrollton to Vienna/Fairfax-GMU
  • Blue - Franconia-Springfield to Largo Town Center
  • Green - Branch Ave to Greenbelt
  • Yellow - Huntington to Mt Vernon Sq 7th St-Convention Center.
  • Silver - First phase opened in July 2014. East Falls Church to Dulles International Airport (See a map of the Dulles Metro extension)
  • Purple - Proposed line in Maryland. Construction expected to begin in 2015. (See a map of the Purple Line)

The Metro lines intersect so that passengers can change trains and travel anywhere on the system. See a map.

Washington Metro Hours

Open: 5 a.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. weekends
Close: Midnight every night

Metro Farecards

A SmartTrip card is required to ride Metro. The magnetic farecard can be encoded with any amount of money from $2 to $45. Fares range from $2 to $6 depending on your destination and the time of day. Fares are higher during rush hour from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. and from 3 to 7 p.m. An all day Metro pass is available for $14.

The fare is automatically deducted from your card when you exit the gates. You can keep reusing the same card and add money to it at the farecard vending machine.

SmarTrip cards are rechargeable, cost $5 and can be encoded with up to $300. If you register your card, Metro will replace it if it is lost or stolen for a $5 fee and you won’t lose the value on the card.

The same card can be used to pay for Metrobus fare. You may add value to a SmarTrip card from the convenience of your computer by visiting www.wmata.com/fares/smartrip. To use the online reload feature, you must have a registered SmarTrip card and online account. An important note: You must complete the transaction by touching the card to a Metrorail faregate, vending machine or bus farebox. If you have questions, call the SmarTrip Regional Customer Service Center at (888)762-7874.

SmartBenefits: Many employers provide free transportation as a fringe benefit to their employees. Employers assign transit benefits directly to their employees' SmarTrip card. For more information, call 800-745-RIDE or by visit commuterconnections.org.

Children's fares: Up to two children, age 4 and under, ride free with each adult paying full fare. Children 5 and older pay adult fares.

Student fares: Special discounted student farecards and passes are available for District of Columbia residents.

Senior/Disabled fares: Seniors age 65 and over and disabled persons are given a reduced fare of half of the regular fare. Read more about disabled access.

Note: Farecards can be purchased in advance online and at a variety of off-site locations.

This is highly recommended for any major event.

See a guide to the Best 5 Metro Stations for Sightseeing to see the entrance and exit locations, to learn about the attractions near each station and to find additional sightseeing and transit tips for Washington DC.

Parking at Metro Lots

You must use a Smartrip card to pay for parking at most Metro Stations. Major credit cards are accepted at Anacostia, Franconia-Springfield, Largo Town Center, New Carrollton, Shady Grove and Vienna/Fairfax-GMU. The cost for parking at a metro parking lot ranges from $4.70 to $5.20 during the week and is free on weekends and holidays. Reserved monthly parking permits are available for $45 to $55 at all stations.

Metro Rules and Tips

  • No eating or drinking is allowed on Metro.
  • Allow people to get off the train before you board.
  • Handicapped seating must be available for the disabled or elderly.
  • The most crowded times are 7:45 to 8:45 a.m. and 4:45 to 5:45 p.m.
  • The busiest days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
  • If you have flexibility in your schedule, consider riding Metro during the reduced fare hours: after 9:30 a.m., before 3 p.m. and after 7 p.m. on weekdays.
  • Save time by keeping enough fare on your farecard or SmarTrip card so that you don’t have to add money at the vending machine each time you ride.
  • Keep your money and valuables out of sight.
  • Call boxes are located at the end of each rail car, if needed to report an emergency.

Metro Security

The Washington Metrorail has systems and processes in place to handle emergency situations. When you ride Metro, you should know what to do and how to be prepared if an emergency situation arises. You should always be aware of your surroundings. For your security, Metro Transit Police officers are at the stations and on trains and buses. Call boxes are located at the end of each rail car and every 800 feet along the tracks. Dial "0" to speak to Metro. You can also call the Metro Transit Police at (202) 962-2121.

Official Website: www.wmata.com

For information about using Washington's bus service, see A Guide to Washington Metrobus

More About Washington DC Transportation