Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 29

On Tuesday, we posted our twenty-ninth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in the Metro system. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got 31 guesses. Nine of you got all five correct. Great work, Alex B, Peter K, Murn, DavidDuck, Justin...., coneyraven, Ian, DC Dave, and Cosmo!


Image 1: West Falls Church

The first image shows the north bus loop at West Falls Church. This loop was formerly home to many of the Fairfax Connector routes that served Tysons Corner and other places in northern Fairfax, but today is less important since the Silver Line has opened. The primary clue here is the unique canopy covering the bus platform. 21 of you knew this one.


Image 2

The second image shows an outbound Blue Line train approaching Arlington Cemetery station. In addition to the side platforms, which narrows the list of possible stations significantly, the bucolic setting and the Rosslyn skyline make this obviously Arlington Cemetery. 28 got this one right.


Image 3

The third image depicts the memorial pylon at Metro Center. This granite column is a memorial to fallen Metro employees. It stands in the southern mezzanine, which is an extension of the Shady Grove platform above the Blue/Orange/Silver platform near the sales office. 19 of you correctly guessed Metro Center.


Image 4

This image shows a mirror on the platform at Silver Spring station. Because the platform here is curved, these convex mirrors are in place to allow the operators of inbound trains to see all the doors on the train. Only two stations have these mirrors. Other clues included the distinctive bridge between the MARC platforms and the buildings in the background. 18 knew this was Silver Spring.


Image 5

The final image shows a staircase at Wheaton station. These steps lead down from the southeast corner of Reedie Drive and Georgia Avenue into the mezzanine. The distinctive blue wall is a clue, as is the new residential tower above the Wheaton Safeway, visible in the glare. 14 correctly guessed Wheaton.

Thanks to everyone for playing! Great work. Stay tuned. We'll have five more images for you next week.

Do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 29

It's time for the twenty-ninth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are five photos of the Washington Metro system. Can you identify the station depicted in each picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear on Thursday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Update: The answers are here.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 28

On Tuesday, we posted our twenty-eighth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in the Metro system. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got 24 guesses. Only one person got all five correct, though. Great work, Peter K!


Image 1: NoMa

The first image was clearly the easiest, garnering 23 correct guesses (one person didn't guess on it). From the photo, you can tell that the canopy is clearly of the "Gull II" variety, and since the next train is going to Glenmont, you know it has to be on the Red Line. The only Gull II station on the Red Line is NoMa.


Image 2: McLean

The second image shows McLean station. We got 16 correct answers to this clue. From the canopy supports on either side of the image, most of you were able to narrow this down to one of the "Tysons Peak" stations. You can also just barely make out the text on the sign with the Silver Line's end points. (Everyone who guessed guessed a station on the Silver Line).

While several of you guessed Spring Hill, which is this station's twin, the view of the buildings in the distance proves this is McLean.


Image 3: Forest Glen

This image of Forest Glen proved a little harder, getting only 13 correct guesses. There's not much context here, but the primary clue is the sign that says "elevators to exit." There are only three elevator-only primary exits in the system, so this had to be one of those stations. The shape of the vault (visible at left) and the lighting should narrow it down to Forest Glen.


Image 4: Takoma

Only six people correctly guessed Takoma for the fourth image. This hallway leads to the platform elevator and is in a different location than the primary (escalator) mezzanine. The reason this entrance exists is because the first phase of Metro (the stations that opened between 1976 and 1978) were designed without elevators. Later, the designs were changed to incorporate elevators, but that resulted in many of those stations having elevators in odd locations. Takoma (opened in 1978) is one of those stations.


Image 5: Southern Avenue

The final image shows station art at Southern Avenue. We actually featured this same art installation in Week 4, though from a different vantage point. Only three of you knew that this was Southern Avenue.

Thanks to everyone for playing! Great work. Stay tuned. We'll have five more images for you next week on our new day: Tuesday.

How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 28

It's time for the twenty-eighth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are five photos of the Washington Metro system. Can you identify the station depicted in each picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear on Thursday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Note: From now on, the whichWMATA clue post will appear on Tuesday with answers on Thursday.

Update: The answers are here.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 27

On Monday, we posted our twenty-seventh photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in Metro. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got 24 guesses. Seven of you got all five correct. Great work, thesixteenwords, Justin..., Aaron, MZEBE, Ken C, Mr Johnson, and Peter K!


Image 1: Union Station

The first image shows the never-finished H Street entrance at Union Station. Behind the wall (partially hidden by the advertisements) is an unfinished tunnel that runs almost all the way to H Street. One day, it may connect Red Line riders to the H Street streetcar or the proposed Metro loop line under H Street. Seventeen of you got this one right.


Image 2: Rockville

The second picture shows the canopy at Rockville and the MARC/Amtrak station next door. Everyone who guessed this week guessed a station that had a commuter rail connection (except one person who guessed Shady Grove), but the commuter rail station at Rockville is distinctive because of its canopy, side platforms, and lack of overhead wires. Fifteen of you guessed correctly.


Image 3: Clarendon

This picture shows the plaza along Wilson Boulevard outside Clarendon station. It's distinctive because of the covered bike parking and the nearby buildings. Fourteen of you knew this one.


Image 4: Franconia-Springfield

The fourth image shows Franconia-Springfield. This one was a little harder, since there's less context. However, the roof type is clearly "High Peak," which narrows it down to four stations. The sign in the distance references "commuter rail," further narrowing this to Franconia. Twelve of you got this one right.


Image 5: Twinbrook

The final image was quite challenging, but despite that, ten of you knew it. This shows the mezzanine at Twinbrook. There were two clues to help you on this one. First, you can see the whole mezzanine (since you can see the faregates), and the only entrance has one escalator and a staircase. Secondly, since the stairs go up, this has to be a station with a mezzanine below the platform.

Only Twinbrook fits the bill. Other stations have staircases, certainly. But they're in different configurations. Other common guesses included Brookland and East Falls Church, but those stations have side-by-side escalators, not a staircase. In fact, the escalator pictured here is the only escalator at Twinbrook. This station has only one escalator, the fewest number of any station (except Forest Glen, which has none).

Next Monday we'll have five more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing!

How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 27

It's time for the twenty-seventh installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are five photos of the Washington Metro system. Can you identify the station depicted in each picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear on Wednesday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 26

On Monday, we posted our twenty-sixth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in Metro. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 20 guesses this week. Only one of you got all five correct. Great work, Peter K!


Image 1: Fort Totten

The first image shows a northbound train leaving Fort Totten's lower level. There are several clues in this picture. The portion of the platform below the mezzanine has a unique ceiling, which is visible here. Additionally, the terminal supervisor's booth (the windows) narrows this down to a few stations that served as terminals. And in the reflection on the window, you can see that the station is partially above ground. Nine of you got this one right.


Image 2: Spring Hill

The next image depicts the Spring Hill station along the new Silver Line. The vantage point is from the pedestrian bridge over the southbound lanes of Route 7. This is distinctly Spring Hill (as opposed to the other Tysons stations) because McLean and Tysons Corner are not in medians, they're entirely on one side of Route 123. Greensboro, which is also in a median, has a completely different roof type (Gambrel) and the mezzanine is above the tracks, rather than below. Twelve of you correctly guessed this one.


Image 3: Takoma

The third image depicts art at the Takoma station, visible from the entrance. It's located on the retaining wall between the tracks south of the station, and is easily visible from the left side of southbound trains upon departure. Nine of you got this one.


Image 4: Braddock Road

The fourth image shows the view from the platform at Braddock Road. The clue here is the distance from and angle to the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Further confirmation comes from being able to see the southern end of the canopy (Alexandria Peak) and the railroad tracks, which makes it clear that this is not King Street. Nineteen knew this one.


Image 5: ShawHoward University

The final image was clearly the hardest. This shows the northbound trackway at Shaw. All stations have drains in the trackways. But they usually just have one or two. Shaw has drains at this interval for almost the entire length of the platform, and it's distinct in that regard. The base of the vault could have also helped you narrow it down, since it's a Waffle type. Only four of you knew this was Shaw.

Next Monday we'll have five more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing!

Do you know the station? It's whichWMATA week 26

It's time for the twenty-sixth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are five photos of the Washington Metro system. Can you identify the station depicted in each picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear on Wednesday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

See Metro's architectural types appear over time

Yesterday, I introduced you to Metro's eleven types of station architecture. Now, you can watch the designs as they appeared with the growth of Metro in this animated GIF.


Image by the author.

In 1976, Metro opened with just two architectural types, the Waffle for underground stations and Gull I for aboveground ones. Today, it's grown to eleven basic styles and six unique designs.

In some cases, expansion brought many stations of the same type, like the 1984 extension of the Red Line from Van Ness to Grosvenor which added four new Arch I stations. But in other cases, the types were somewhat mixed, such as the 1991 tunnel for the Yellow and later Green Line from Gallery Place to U Street.

To learn more about these styles, see the original post.

WhichWMATA: A retrospective

It's hard to believe, but we've been doing whichWMATA now for 25 weeks, and you've guessed on 125 images. Let's take a look back at the series to date.

On April 16, I asked you to try to identify the first set of images. Thanks to a link from Politico, week one got over 5,000 pageviews. Though, we only got 40 guesses.


Greenbelt, from week 1. Only one person got this one right.

I'm glad so many of you enjoy the series. I've had quite a lot of fun putting it together, but it's not easy. In fact, sometimes I wonder if my job is harder than yours.

It's a fine line to walk, and it's made much harder by the uniformity of design features across the system. In Atlanta, for example, I could take a picture of blue glazed platform tiles and it could only be Garnett. But here, if I take a picture of the floor tiles, you can only narrow it down to 80 or so stations.

So I have to take photos that are unique enough that you all have a fighting chance of guessing. But the photo also has to be obscure enough that it's not too easy. It's a fine line to walk.

Some stations have few distinguishing features, so it's very hard to include those stops. It's one of the costs of uniform design.


U Street, from week 7.

On the other hand, it's fun to help you exercise your deductive reasoning, as I did in week 7. 17 of you figured out that image 5 was U Street, despite relatively few clues. Here's my blurb from the answers that week:

As I indicated in the clue on Tuesday, there was enough information to narrow this down to 3 stations. 32 stations have the waffle-style vaults. Of that subset, 20 stations have a center platform like the one pictured, but 4 of those have full-length mezzanines. Of the 16 remaining, only three have floating mezzanines at both ends of the station: U Street, Shaw, and Navy Yard. But Shaw and Navy Yard have short names that don't require the station nameplates to be double-height as those at U Street are.
And I haven't been alone. We've had guest photographers in four of the sets: week 6, week 14, week 18, and week 22. I'm thankful to Ben Schumin, DC Transit Nerd, Peter K, and Sand Box John for submitting photos, so I could go on vacation.

If any of you ever want to try your hand, feel free to submit photos to whichwmata@ggwash.org.


Mount Vernon Square, from week six. Photo by DC Transit Nerd.

Through the first 25 weeks of this series, people have guessed 903 times. On average, 36 people play each week. The fewest guesses we ever got came in week 21, when only 14 people played.

At the other end of the spectrum, the most guesses we ever got in a week was last week, when all five images depicted elements of L'Enfant Plaza station. We got 84 guesses in week 25.


Georgia Avenue, from week 24. Only two people knew this one.

Over the weeks, I've tried to balance the distribution of the stations across the system. But it's not always easy.

I ride the Red and Green (or Yellow) daily, and so pictures of the other lines are generally the product of a photo safari. Some of them are older pictures that I've taken and pressed into service for whichWMATA. But the other complicating factor is that some lines have more stations with unique features than others.

In the past, we've gotten some complaints that Virginia stations weren't featured enough, and with only 34 featured photos, Virginia does come in last. But we've only featured 35 Maryland photos, so it doesn't trail by much.

And in fact, in two weeks, we've featured Virginia stations exclusively: week 12 and week 16.


Eisenhower Avenue, from week 12.

In several weeks, we've had themed sets, including week 16, which featured the newly-opened Silver Line stations. Other themes included station art (week 4) and the pylons outside station entrances (week 11).


Rosslyn, from week 4.

I'm going to keep running the series for as long as I can find material to share. But I'd like to get your feedback on how I can improve whichWMATA.

What would you like to see included? What are we missing? Is it too hard? Too easy? Tell me in the comments (and don't worry: this time there are no wrong answers).

WhichWMATA will return in a few weeks.

Thanks for playing! Good luck!

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