Saturday, March 13, 2004

Travel Tip Time!

Getting around in DC. One word. Metro.

The cleanest subway system I have encountered. They should be, watch out for the food police.
No eating or drinking in the stations or on the trains. Thusly, none of the interesting food choices found in other subway systems.

I didn't see any busking, and the open nature of even the more complex stations would have made the auditory trip throughout the space.

Like Boston's MTA, the Metro has a station at Reagan. Even better, adjacent to the major terminals! Midwest flies into a gate in terminal A. She is the oldest, looking like she was built back in the days when you still disembarked down stairs to the tarmac. The house dress is a bit tattered, but the old girl still has character. If you come into A, you can either hoof it over, or, wimp out like I did and catch the bus. ;-)

Sometime during your Metro travels, be sure to take the Yellow line across the Potomac. The train travels across a bridge, instead of tunneling under. You can get a nice view of the city on the river's north shore.

I like the starkness of the underground Metro stations. They are mostly unadorned. The fewest commercial messages I have seen. New York, the London Underground, MTA. They have varying amounts of ads on the walls, but all have more than the Metro. Very few here. A few on the upper levels, as you make your way to/from the surface entrance. A few more mounted in frames on the railings at track level. The Tube in London has them everywhere, including the escalators to/from the gate/track levels.

The gates and track platforms consist of large tubes. The walls are bare reinforced concrete that would make 'ol Tom Pendergast proud. The walls consist of rectangular panels, each containing an indentation. Sometimes the rectangular panels are smaller horizontal lines. Other stations they are vertically oriented and much larger. The indentations are also rectangles, with rounded corners. As you follow the pattern up the wall, the indentation is deeper and deeper. In all cases in the upper reaches of the 'wall' and 'ceiling' you will see a lighter colored rectangular panel. These are acoustic panel, without which the pandemonium of echoes would make the space unbearable. Overall, quite pleasing.

Warning, this is a deep hole operation. More akin to the Tube than the MTA or NYC systems. (Remember that scene in Die Hard 3 when John McClaine pulls up a grate at street level and jumps down onto the top of a downtown train?) There are two ways down. The elevator from street level, but it is quite a ride and expect a full car. Not for the claustrophobic. On the other hand, you can always ride up and down the escalator. They will adjust directions to accommodate rush hour traffic. Beware, the large tube, minus any 'indentations' found a platform level are large and open. I found, especially during off-peak rides when there was no-one directly in front of me, there was a slight case of vertigo on the downward ride. I first encountered this type of thing when sitting in the 'nose-bleed' sections of the Municipal Auditorium watching the Big8 Basketball tournament each Christmas vacation of my youth. (Ahh, the late lamented Big8... Never needed them dang Texas teams... Grrrrrr ;->) It is a real 'Oh-My-Gosh-I'm-Going-To-Trip-And-Roll-All-The-Way-To-The-Bottom' kind of thing. The London Underground has the same type of escalator setup, but are not as open. Perhaps it is that, or maybe these are slightly steeper? Who knows. Just watch it the first time down!

OK, Science time. As you are riding up and down the LONG escalator runs, pay close attention to what you hear. That voice that seems like a person standing directly behind you is actually on the other side riding the other direction. The footfalls that make you think someone must be running up the escalator behind you is really someone brave enough to fight the vertigo and run down the opposite side in their rush to catch that next train. (Note: I never saw anyone running UP the escalator. ;->) I never heard this type of effect in the similar long runs of the London Tube, but, as I mentioned, those are not as large in diameter. These are also not bare concrete, but are rather lined with some type of metal and plastered with ads that break up the smooth surfaces. Odd effect. I plan on using it into the plot of Intel Officer.

Pay more attention than I did, the daily pass is a great deal, but not for the commuter. They are only good after 9:30. I, of course, bought several before discovering this. Still, I was using the system enough to make it a better choice. I used the same trick I learned with the rail/tube pass in London. I buy a one-way regular ticket for the early trip to the office, and ride the rest of the day on the pass.

BTW, for the trip last year to London I pre-purchased vouchers for week-long passes, good all day. This avoided the photo requirement when purchasing a week-long pass in-country. Let me know, and I will look for the info. on where to purchase these for your trip across the pond.
(Isn't it cute how I pretend someone else is reading these little posts, right from the beginning? ;->)

You can 're-stock' tickets of low value to maximize usage of your investment, but no refunds. Also, every station I encountered machines with plastic capabilities, both credit and debit! Kudos! You may need to 're-charge' a card to finish your trip. This is a variable-cost system that requires you to keep that card handy to deduct the proper amount and let you out the gate at the end of your ride. Kind of like the old MTA...
(Did he ever return, no he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned...
He will ride uneasy, 'neath the streets of DC, he's the man, who never returned!)

When navigating to the major points on the mall:
Smithsonian will leave you off near the West end museums with that name.
The Navy Memorial/National Archives station is a short block north of the mall on Penn. since that avenue angles down from the WH to the Capitol. Convenient for the museums on the Eastern end. I walked out on the mall after lunch and looking at the Air & Space, passed by 'I hate George Bush button/bumper-sticker guy's vendor cart and walked over to the Navy Memorial to get back to the Yellow line and get back to the airport.
Heading to the Capitol to take that tour you pre-arranged with your CongressCritter's office? Head into the Metro station underneath Penn Station. Eclectic selection in the food court and other nice restaurant selections that are a change of pace from the usual Museum food service fare...

When we were in DC a few years back, the Washington Monument had just re-opened after a renovation project. Tickets are free, but if you would not like to stand in line, TicketMaster will reserve them for you online for a small fee. Also, the daily tickets for White Hose tours were distributed, first come-first served and limited numbers, in the wee hours near 14th and Penn. I lucked out, as that was across the street from the JW Marriott and I got up, collected my tickets and went back to sleep in. Dr. and Mrs. Buie were in line behind me, having come in from a sub-urban hotel in Maryland. I assume then rode in on the Red line and got off at Metro Center, as that was the closest station to our hotel.

More to see than you could ever get done in one vacation, have a great time!