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Your Complete Guide to Navigating DC Public Transportation

Your Complete Guide to Navigating DC Public Transportation

Navigating a new city can be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding the local public transportation. Washington, DC — known for its historic landmarks and bustling city life — offers an efficient, diverse, and accessible network of public transit options. From Metrorail to buses, biking, and walking paths, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to transportation in DC that’ll help you easily get around.

Metrorail & Metrobus: The Backbone of DC Public Transportation

The heart of the DC public transportation system beats through the veins of the Metrorail and Metrobus networks, both managed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). These transport systems are designed to cover most areas of the city, ensuring accessibility and convenience for all residents and visitors.


As one of the busiest public transit systems in the country, Metrorail offers a convenient way to navigate the city. The system spans six color-coded lines: Red, Orange, Silver, Blue, Yellow, and Green, extending across five neighboring areas including Maryland and Virginia.

The Metrorail network is extensive, with 91 stations dispersed throughout the city and neighboring areas. The vastness of the network can seem overwhelming at first, but the color-coded lines simplify navigation significantly. Trains typically run from 5 am to midnight on weekdays, and from 7 am to midnight on weekends, making it a reliable option for most of your commuting needs.

To pay for the Metrorail, consider purchasing a SmarTrip card — a durable, plastic card that you can load with value and use again and again. Not only can it be used for Metrorail, but it is also accepted on many other forms of public transportation in the DC area.


The Metrobus operates in conjunction with Metrorail, serving areas not directly accessible by the rail network. With over 325 routes spread across DC, Maryland, and Virginia, the Metrobus is an incredibly flexible and reliable mode of transportation. Buses typically run from 5 am to midnight, similar to the Metrorail, but specific times can vary depending on the bus route.

Similar to Metrorail, Metrobus also accepts the SmarTrip card, simplifying the payment process if you’re using multiple forms of transit. If you’re using cash, ensure you have the exact fare as drivers do not carry change.

DC Circulator Bus

The DC Circulator is a convenient and accessible bus service that serves six distinct routes throughout Washington, DC. Managed by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), these buses are separate from the Metrobus system and focus on bridging the gap between Metrorail stations and areas not easily accessible by rail.

The DC Circulator operates along highly traveled corridors, connecting various neighborhoods and areas of interest. It caters to a wide range of riders, from tourists seeking to explore the city’s rich cultural and historical sites to locals needing a reliable connection for their day-to-day commuting needs.

Understanding and utilizing the Metrorail, Metrobus, and DC Circulator systems can significantly simplify your transportation experience in DC. Whether you’re commuting to work, exploring the city’s rich history, or merely running errands, these public transit options provide efficient and economical ways to get around in DC.

Other Transportation Options to Get Around DC

  • Bicycling Around DC – When considering how to get around in DC, don’t overlook the possibility of biking. Capital Bikeshare has over 600 stations across the city, providing a healthy and fun way to navigate. 
  • Walking Paths – Washington, DC, is one of the most walkable cities in the United States. Sidewalks and walking paths are plentiful and well-maintained. Whether you’re looking to commute or explore the top things to do in Washington DC in the spring, walking is a wonderful option.
  • Taxis and Rideshares – For those less inclined toward public transportation or who desire a more private mode of transport, DC offers numerous taxi services and rideshares like Uber and Lyft.
  • Dockless Electric Scooters and Bikes – Dockless electric scooters and bikes are a recent addition to DC’s transportation scene. Companies like Bird, Lime, and Spin provide these dockless vehicles, offering a unique and convenient way to traverse the city. You can locate and unlock these scooters or bikes using their respective smartphone apps, and leave them at your destination.
  • Water Taxis – For a more scenic commute, consider taking a water taxi. Services like the Potomac Riverboat Company offer water taxis that connect The Wharf, Georgetown, Alexandria, and National Harbor. It’s not only a unique way to travel but also offers fantastic views of DC’s waterfront.

No matter your preference, these diverse options make transportation in DC accessible and fun. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, you’ll find it easy to navigate the city’s landscape.

Living in DC: Cost and Safety Considerations

Understanding transportation in DC is crucial, especially for residents. It’s an important factor when considering the cost of living in Washington, DC, or trying to live in DC on a budget. Efficient public transit can help lower transportation costs significantly.

Safety is also a key concern when navigating DC public transportation and where you live will often play into how you choose to get around. Remember, understanding the available transportation options will not only help you get around in DC, but it will also add depth to your DC experience. From Metrorail to scenic biking paths, ensure you make the most of this vibrant city. Safe travels!Thompson-Markward Hall (TMH) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the academic and professional success of young women. Located in the heart of Washington, DC, TMH offers safe, affordable, and convenient housing for women working, attending school, or interning in our nation’s capital. Included in the room and board rates are utilities, free high-speed Wi-Fi, breakfast and dinner, and a diverse, welcoming community. Visit our website to learn more about our accommodations or to submit an application today to start enjoying all of the benefits of living at TMH!


Thompson-Markward Hall’s Impact

Thompson-Markward Hall (TMH) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the academic and professional success of young women. Located in the heart of Washington, DC, TMH offers safe, affordable, and convenient housing for women working, attending school, or interning in our nation’s capital. Included in the room and board rates are utilities, free high-speed Wi-Fi, breakfast and dinner, and a diverse, welcoming community.

In addition to offering a wonderful place to call home in DC, we provide useful information to residents and prospective applicants as a resource to help them become familiar with DC and be successful in all of their endeavors. Whether you’re currently looking for a place to stay in DC, planning for a potential future here, or simply looking to learn more about the DC area, TMH is here to help!

Learn more about our accommodations or to submit an application today to start enjoying all of the benefits of living at TMH! You can also make a donation to support the crucial work we do!

Resident Resources

Room and board is due on the first of every month. TMH does not issue payment notices. A $20.00 late fee is charged everyday beginning at 9:00 pm on the 5th day of the month until the room and board payment is received. If you are unable to make your monthly payment for any reason, please speak to management immediately.

Room and board includes the first day of the month until the morning of the last day of the month or until the morning of the day of check-out, whichever day comes first.

In the event that a resident does not stay the entire month, rent will be prorated within the same month. To view the pro-rated fee schedule and a list of other fees—click here: TMH Pro-Rated Fee Schedule 6-1-2022


Each resident is asked to abide by the TMH House Rules and Regulations stipulated here: House Rules and ProceduresRule-packet-Emergency-Procedures-Updated-12-2019. Please read this document to become familiar with TMH policies and procedures such as guest policies, meal times, smoking areas, printer and copier use, Internet and telephone use, damage charges, and much more.

Monday-Friday hours / breakfast 7:00am-9:30am dinner 5:45pm – 8:00pm sat hours / breakfast 8:00 – 11:00am sun hours / brunch 8:00 – 11:00am dinner 5:00pm-7:00pm

Weekly Menu

Commuting: Metro stops within walking distance are Union Station, Capitol South, and Eastern Market. Refillable SMARTRIP cards are available for purchase at all metro stops. For more information on public transportation visit WMATA.

Parking: TMH does not offer parking and street parking is limited. Most areas offer 2 hour parking from 7:00am-8:30pm and unlimited overnight parking without a permit. However, if you do not have a Residential Parking Permit and your car is seen in the area repeatedly within a 30-day period you may be ticketed for not obtaining proper tags.

Union Station is the nearest public parking garage. There is generally a wait list for obtaining a parking space. Click here to visit their website to obtain up-to-date information.

Temporary Parking Permits: DC offers Reciprocity Parking Permits in special situations. Click here to see if you qualify. If you meet the requirements, you can obtain a Proof of Residency form from the front office.

Registering Your Vehicle in DC: If you do not meet the requirements for a temporary parking permit, you may choose to register your vehicle in DC. Click here for specific instructions.

Other Transportation Information:

  • Voting: To become a registered voter in the DC area, visit the Board of Elections & Ethics. Please note that you must unregister from your current voting state in order to register as a voter in DC.
  • DC One Card: DC has a new initiative to incorporate multiple cards into one all-inclusive card. The DCOne Card is a library card, Metro card, and can grant access to Public Parks programs. Click here to register or get more information.
  • DC Plastic Bag Policy: Washington DC’s Skip the Bag, Save the River Initiative requires a $0.05 fee per bag from businesses selling food and alcohol. Be sure to take reusable bags with you to the grocery store to avoid the fee.
  • DC Emergency Alerts: The DC Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Response has an alert system to notify residents of severe weather, police activity, road closures, and school and government closings. Notifications can be received via email or text message and can be specified to neighborhoods or work areas. For text alerts sign up here.
  • DC Metropolitan Police Resources: DC Metro PD offers several resources as well as an anonymous tip line for security concerns. You can find the tip line number as well as other important emergency phone numbers here.