Things to Do while You Wait for the Metro

Metro’s website claims it “provides the National Capital area with safe and reliable public transportation.” At first this seems like a head-scratcher, but links on the same page take you to news about improvements in 2003 that are “coming soon.” Maybe that’s the year the guy who updates the pages was laid off, so keep that in mind when deciding how much stock to put into whatever you read on

Other reliable sources confirm, however, that the summer is going to be a rough one for Metro riders throughout the system, as the transit authority is embarking on long-delayed maintenance work that will slow the commute drastically in many areas.

How to cope?

Make the best of it! Use your downtime wisely, and you — like the system’s components themselves — will emerge from this lengthy, painful process all the better for it.

Here are some ways to pass the time while you wait for your train if you get tired of watching movies:

Get Educated

According to a 2012 Timex survey, people spend an average of 20 minutes a day waiting for a bus or train. If you adjust these figures to fit our Metro system, you can assume 40 minutes a day, but this is an average, since some days will be only five minutes but some will be an hour and half.

Since there is no way to tell before you leave home which it will be, you should always be prepared.

If you add in the time sitting on the bus or train while it’s moving, then you’ve easily got an hour, maybe two. In one summer you could:

  • Learn a new language — This way, you could help pass the time by chatting with tourists from all over the world.
  • Read Anna Karenina — It’s still sitting in your basement, leftover from junior year in college when you were too busy to read it so you just watched the movie instead. Now that you know what it’s about, it will be easier to absorb this wordy classic that could take the place of the obsolete “phone book” as a booster seat for your nephew at Thanksgiving.
  • Study for your master’s — Time is money. Turn this wasted time into a way to get an advanced degree that will translate into a higher paycheck (and maybe a job at a company with a car service).

A quick Google search reveals that what people want to learn most besides a foreign language are how to dance, how to code (in the computer sense, not the flat-line sense) and how to imitate a foreign accent. Presumably that last one comes into play for people who live in cities with efficient and reliable transportation who must take a shortcut because they don’t have time to actually learn the language while waiting for the train to come.

Enjoy the Art

Metro’s Art in Transit program brings murals, sculptures, mosaics and other art projects to train stations throughout the DMV. Twenty-four stations currently either have art installed or are considering proposals, with the Green Line having the lion’s share with 13.

When you look at a map of stations with artwork, you can’t help but notice most are located on the east side of the city — maybe the low-rent areas get priority for beautification.

Some of the best-known art installations include:

The Glory of the Chinese Descendants (Gallery Place), by Foon Sham, is a giant, neon fan that commemorates what was once a thriving Chinatown, but today is home to barely 300 Chinese Americans hanging on by their fingernails to homes from which developers are now trying to oust them.

Community Rhythms (U Street/Cardozo), by Alfred J. Smith with help from Howard University art students, is a 160-foot-long mural vibrating with color, depicting an assortment of mostly African-American musicians playing a variety of brass, string and percussion instruments.

Ribbons and Jewels (Metro Center), by Hazel Rebold, is a series of five stained-glass wall sconces adorning the entrance/exit, lending a sacrosanct feel to an otherwise dreary space.

Work out

On any given day, dozens of escalators and elevators are out of service in Metro stations across all lines, forcing commuters to walk up or down the frustratingly inert fixtures. Don’t get mad! Get fit!

If you get down to the bottom and see that your train isn’t due for 24 minutes, or that you have no hope of squeezing on to the next one (or even the one after that), do another lap up and down! Or two!

Riders in the best shape will undoubtedly be those along Metro’s Red Line, home to most of the longest escalators. The top three are:

  • Wheaton (230 feet)
  • Bethesda (212 feet)
  • Woodley Park (204 feet)

Take caution in the summer, however, when the area’s heat and humidity make climbing escalators a dangerous endeavor for anyone with heart trouble. Some commuters erroneously believe they may be having heart attacks when a train on their preferred line actually arrives and boards within 10 minutes of their appearance on the platform. (They feel their pulses quicken again later when they hear the announcement: This train will be holding here until further notice.)

Got any other good ideas for how to pass the time? Comment!

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