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The best way to get around Washington DC is the DC Metro (subway or underground). You can find a metro map of all the different lines when you first enter the metro station and online. On the Metro, you can get to the National Zoo, the Smithsonian Museums and National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and 2 blocks from the White House. Unfortunately, Georgetown is not accessible, you will need to get off at the Foggy Bottom/GWU and take a cab or get off at Rosslyn and walk across the Key Bridge. The trains and stations are clean and safe; you purchase farecards before you go down to the platform. There is no food permitted on the trains and the service stations do not have restrooms or garbage cans. There are day passes which are economical if you are going to take three or more rides in one day. If you're over 65 and going to be in Washington several days, consider purchasing a senior SmarTrip card, which cuts your fares in half. You cannot purchase these in most Metro stations. See the Metro site for a list of locations where these are available (some stores and the Navy Metro station. You'll need your Medicare card when you purchase it.) You should not have to wait more than 10 minutes for a train, although the waits may be 20 minutes at night. Before you board, check your map to see which direction you want to go when you exit so you can get off the train at the exit closest to your destination.
The DC Circulator provides five bus routes that take care of some of the empty spots in the subway system. The DC Circulator buses are a convoy of brand new, sparkling clean, and easy-to-access buses painted bright red. The most popular bus route is the Smithsonian - National Gallery of Art Loop which goes around the National Mall. Another important route is the Georgetown - Union Station. The bus fare is $1 a trip (or 50 cents if you're a senior). The DC Circulator can also help you connect to Metro stations for a more flexible transportation solution. The DC Circulator comes about every 10 minutes. Bus stops are identified by a red/silver circulator sign. DC Circulator Maps are available once you board. Those seeking guided or narrated tours should use the Tourmobile or the Old Town Trolley.
The other, and perhaps best, way to get around DC is to simply walk. The way Pierre L’Enfant laid out the city makes it easy to find your way. Numbered streets run south to north and lettered streets run east to west. Even better, there’s logic behind the street addresses. Say you want to go to the International Spy Museum (and yes, you do). At 800 F Street NW, you now know that it’s in the NW quadrant of the city, where F Street meets 8th. Zaytinya Restaurant (another good choice) at 701 9th Street is just around the corner at 9th and G (G is the 7th letter of the alphabet). There are a few wrinkles: avenues with state names run diagonally through the city. If you hit one of those, don’t worry. In the next block you’ll cross a numbered or lettered street and know right where you are. And if you get tired of walking, you can hail a taxi, jump on the Metro, or hop on a bus. Rest up and hit those streets again!
If you prefer something more direct and faster, call for a cab or Executive Town Car of Washington DC. They will get you where you need to be by the most direct route and they are fairly reasonable.
Or, if you have a smartphone and android sign up for Uber where you can order and pre-pay for on-demand car service from door-to-door. https://www.uber.com .
A motorcade interrupting rush hour traffic is a common event in Washington. This can be a baffling and anxiety-producing event for an out-of-town driver. Police cars block the road with no hint of the reason or the duration.
Actually, motorcades here are well organized. There is a lot of coordination between the Secret Service and the DC police. The trips are tightly scheduled. The route is laid out well in advance. The President can get to the Capitol in about three minutes. First the DC police patrol cars get in place. There will be two or more at each street that crosses the motorcade route. They don't block traffic until about five minutes before the motorcade is scheduled to come by. It holds some people back, but it allows others to clear out of the way.
The group of vehicles traveling together is fairly predictable. A recent motorcade included five motorcycles, then three patrol cars, two limousines, three Secret Service SUVs, then three more patrol cars, and three more motorcycles. Some of the black vehicles are decoys so the public doesn’t know which one is carrying the dignitary. This was not a Presidential motorcade. There would have been quite a few more vehicles, but the order in which they traveled would have been the same. Based on the size of the motorcade and the route they took, it is likely that a cabinet secretary was going to a hearing or meeting in the House of Representatives, or more precisely in one of the House Office Buildings. Hearings are not held on the floor of the Senate or the House. There are special hearing rooms in the Senate and House Office Buildings. Meetings with Administration officials are usually held in the chambers of the Senator or Representative.
Other reasons for motorcades are to bring foreign dignitaries to the White House or to take high-ranking officials to the airport. The President is flown by Marine helicopters to Andrews Air Force Base for flights on Air Force One.
Drivers or passengers stopped by such blockades should simply be patient. If there are no fire trucks or ambulances in view with their lights flashing, no one is in danger. A routine motorcade will be gone in under ten minutes.