A power outlet at Wheaton. Photo by the author.

If you find yourself on the Metro and the battery to your smart phone, iPad, Kindle, or even electric wheelchair is running low, don’t worry. For those that know where to look, throughout the Metro system, both on trains and in stations, are multiple outlets in which you can recharge.

I was reminded of this in recent weeks as I ran into an old acquaintance who listed with precision and pride every imaginable outlet within the stations on the Red Line from Glenmont to Union Station. Just days later I struck up a conversation with a man in an electric wheelchair who reliably uses the Metro’s public outlets.  He suggested a survey would show that thousands of people borrow juice from Metro’s power grid every day.

After Hurricane Sandy struck New York City and New Jersey last year widespread power outages precipitated pop-up charging stations which became the “new face of disaster relief.”

In the midst of the impromptu neighborhood response, Brightbox, a New York City-based startup that creates mobile charging stations, seized the moment. At a usual cost of $2 to $4 to charge up, Brightbox put extra units on the street at no cost.

This same electrical charity is available daily to all Metro riders, emergency or not. However, it is mostly personal emergencies that cause people to power up on the Metro, said two teenagers huddled in the Red Line’s grimy, damp, dark front northbound corner of the Gallery Place-Chinatown station charging their cell phones on an evening this past weekend.

Other riders are not as inconspicuous.

"I was on a Metro train recently where somebody in an electric wheelchair explained that he charged it using an outlet on the train, below the seats,” said Miriam Schoenbaum, who was riding on the Red Line’s Shady Grove side. “I probably wouldn’t even have noticed if he hadn’t talked to the whole car about it.”

What about you? Have you ever needed to charge up on the Metro? Where have you found outlets?