Photo by doug88888 on Flickr.

What to do when you’ve found yourself in an unfamiliar area in the Washington metropolitan area? If you’re within one mile of a transit stop, whether it’s Metrobus or Metrorail, you’re in luck. A hidden tool on Metro’s website, the “Service Nearby” tool, can be very useful for helping to plan Metro trips.

Last summer, a friend of mine moved to a new apartment in Alexandria, an area with which he was not particularly familiar, and asked me for advice on how to find a good way to commute by transit to his job in DC.

I pointed him to Metro’s “Service Nearby” tool as a first step in figuring out his various options. The tool identifies all the transit stops within one mile. You can then use that information to look at schedules or use the Trip Planner to determine various ways to go where you want to go.

Since the Trip Planner does not always provide the complete list of options (and often not even the best options), using “Service Nearby” can be really helpful. You can find it under the “Rider Tools” tab as shown here:

On the next screen, enter in the location you want to find service near, as shown below:

The tool will then list all the services within a mile of that location. Some are not as useful as others; for example, the tool is redundant, listing every bus stop along the same bus line. Nonetheless, you can use this information to help figure out how to get to a variety of locations and to other means of transportation, such as Metrorail stations.

Here’s an example. The complete results went on much longer than this screen shot, but as you can see, this example only shows locations within 0.12 miles:

Using public transportation often requires research and effort on the part of the rider, but with the advent of the Internet, smart phones and apps, NextBus and other tools, it’s getting easier. “Service Nearby” is another valuable tool that can aid travelers using the Metro system.

Steve Offutt has been working at the confluence of business and environment for almost 20 years, with experience in climate change solutions, green building, business-government partnerships, transportation demand management, and more. He lives in Arlington with his wife and two children and is a cyclist, pedestrian, transit rider and driver.