Greater Greater Washington

Map contest winners, part 5: Commuter rail and short turns

While the jurors in our map contest tended to lean toward maps with the familiarity of Wyman's design, the voters in the peoples' choice element sided with maps that took a fresh look at the system. The third place finisher in the people's choice voting was Map B, by Andrew Duggan.

Map B, by Andrew Duggan.

Andrew's design uses thin lines, which he describes as "delicate", in contrast to the "fat" lines of Wyman's original design. Several maps took this approach, and it does seem to offer a cleaner, less cluttered design.

Another innovation of this map was showing the region's commuter rail lines. The current map only shows commuter rail connections at intermodal stations. Map B took the approach of inserting the actual lines on the map. This map wasn't the only one to show commuter rail lines, though only a few contestants chose to include those lines.

Map B had one attribute in common with the third place finisher in the jury contest: showing short-turn points using a "spur" at the terminal. This feature calls attention to places like Silver Spring, where half of all Red Line trains terminate.

Overall, the map offers a clear design, though it does include one major flaw that needs to be addressed. Perhaps illustrating the difficulty in describing Metro's soon-to-start Franconia-Greenbelt service, the author of this map seems to have misunderstood the mechanics of the shift. He shows the Blue Line reroute as a service that runs from Franconia to Largo by way of the Yellow Line bridge, rejoining the Blue Line on the lower level of L'Enfant Plaza.

In reality, when this new service starts next year, trains on the Blue Line reroute will not rejoin the current Blue Line at L'Enfant Plaza, but will continue northward along the Yellow/Green Line to Greenbelt.

In spite of that error, the map represents a great attempt at a redesign. And it proved popular with voters, receiving 118 first-place votes.

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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. 


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Ah, so this was the map you were talking about this weekend. This was the other one I voted for (besides Cameron Booth's).

by Froggie on May 31, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

On one hand, I like the attempt to show that the far-out suburban stations are further apart than, say, Rosslyn-Ballston.

On the other, it completely throws out geographic accuracy. The Silver Spring "notch" and location of Judiciary Square are particularly egregious. Also, New York Ave seems to have vanished entirely!

It's nice to include the commuter rail lines, but if it can only be done at the expense of the clarity of the Metro map, it shouldn't be done.

by andrew on May 31, 2011 2:43 pm • linkreport

nice map, but you forgot a stop: New York Ave/Florida Ave [my stop!]

by TG on May 31, 2011 2:44 pm • linkreport

I think it's safe to say that the blue line between Pentagon and L'Enfant are there by mistake. The creator still included the yellow line continuing to Greenbelt during peak hours.

I still think the spurs at mid-line terminal stations are the way to go.

by Max D. on May 31, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport

I like the concept, but an editor would be needed to iron out the details. Does Acela actually stop at New Carrolton? If not, it shouldn't be on the map; if you're riding Acela, you know where you're going.

However, including commuter rail should be contingent upon them operating similar to Metro in terms of hours and ease. I like how NYC does it: one side of their map is subway, one side is MTA commuter rail. Makes sense to me, at least.

by OctaviusIII on May 31, 2011 2:49 pm • linkreport

And Arlington and Fairfax are mixed up at the near Tysons East.

I like this map.

by Jasper on May 31, 2011 2:49 pm • linkreport

Besides that problem with the Blue Line, I think this deals with the rush hour service patterns quite elegantly.

by Adam L on May 31, 2011 2:52 pm • linkreport

flaws aside i'm a fan. while they may seem unnecessary, i do like the tunnel porthole graphics, even though a few more need to be added

by JessMan on May 31, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

It's got some solid concepts, although as others have noted, there are some notable errors and inconsistency. For example, tunnel portals are on the key but bridges aren't. Station bubbles in DC cover the blue, orange and the under construction silver line but in Arlington the bubbles only cover the active orange line, implying that the silver line won't make any of those stops.

by Distantantennas on May 31, 2011 3:09 pm • linkreport

Another issue: the western Red Line transfer to MARC/Amtrak is at Rockville, not Shady Grove.

by Adam S on May 31, 2011 3:13 pm • linkreport

@OctaviusIII, the Amtrak Acela trains do not stop at New Carrollton. Only the Northeast Regional trains do. A DC Metro map should not use the current brand name of a Amtrak service - what happens if Amtrak decides to re-brand their train names? In the context of this map, it should just show an Northeast Corridor/Penn Line connection from Union Station to New Carrollton without much elaboration.

by AlanF on May 31, 2011 3:43 pm • linkreport

Aside from the several flaws already mentioned (Judiciary Sq-Union Station, Shady Grove Amtrak/MARC, Silver Spring's chunk of D.C., the lack of NY Ave, Acela...) The basic design was well done.

Bridges and tunnels are unnecessary, as are the mid-line turnarounds. I think some people will think that there is an extra platform for those trains, as they appear to be another line altogether.

Also, something I've seen on many maps: Friendship Heights in Maryland. Most of the station is in D.C. as are 3/5 of its exits. I wonder about the effect of showing the Farragut transfer on tourists and those unfamiliar with the transfer. Saying "Out of system transfer" seems too unclear.

by thedofc on May 31, 2011 3:59 pm • linkreport

Missing a bunch of portal tunnels.

As others have said, the Farragut transfer may be confusing to out-of-towners.

Otherwise it's a pretty sexy map.

Question: is it true that the Silver Spring turnaround is only off-peak? I'm fairly certain I've seen SS-bound trains during rush hour...

by Martin on May 31, 2011 4:07 pm • linkreport

Silver Spring is the short-turn terminal at all times except late evenings. So, yes, trains terminate there during rush hours.

by Matt Johnson on May 31, 2011 4:21 pm • linkreport

To update my above comment: Tunnel and bridge markings are unneccessary and just add clutter. Acela should NOT be on the map. Commuter rail and Amtrak, if included at all, should be very clearly marked as irregular and not for casual use. Transfer stations should be more clearly marked as major stations. Consistency in the names on the left-hand Red Line. How would the designer handle the Franconia-Greenbelt service?

I think those are my only stylistic critiques.

by OctaviusIII on May 31, 2011 5:29 pm • linkreport

In general, I really liked this map, but a few flaws really do let it down.

The decision to arbitrarily alter the shape of the "District Diamond" to suit the placement of the stations is the biggest one in my mind - this is possibly THE defining visual symbol of the greater DC area and really is almost iconic in its shape.

I'm also not a huge fan of the tunnel/bridge iconography - this really isn't necessary information for travelers and just creates another layer of information to be digested.

by Cameron Booth on May 31, 2011 5:46 pm • linkreport

I really liked this map, but didn't vote for it because of some of the accuracy issues (like the Blue Line deal).

The thin lines like this one and Cameron Booth's (whose subway style map of the Amtrak system decorates my office wall space) are much nicer looking than the current "fat line" maps.

by RyanS on May 31, 2011 8:02 pm • linkreport

@Max D:

I didn’t like the short turn terminals presented as spurs. They way I read it, it gives the impression that the terminal uses a physically separate platform.

The various errors that are present in this map and the other maps in my opinion are not all that relevant. It is the merit of the style of the design that we should use for ranking the maps.

by Sand Box John on May 31, 2011 10:50 pm • linkreport

I actually like the bridge information as it gives me a landmark when I'm traveling on the system.

Needs some editing, but by far the best map I've seen in the series. It does the best job of adding the rush hour train options without totally overwhelming the reader.

by eb on Jun 1, 2011 9:12 am • linkreport

Although it needed a bit of tweaking, I thought that this particular map was way out in front of the pack in terms of being geographically representative, easier to read, and more illustrative of intermodal transfers. My only suggestion being that, when possible, station names be listed horizontally and not at a 45-degree angle.

However, I think that one of the challenges for ALL of the mapmakers is trying to use only five colors to represent an escalating number of services. WMATA needs to seriously consider expanding reoute designations by either increasing the number of colored lines (pink, brown, burgundy) or switch to a number/letter system like New York City, or line-name system such as London's.

by Brian Learch on Jun 1, 2011 9:55 am • linkreport

Re : Map B (aka Bravo)

In its masthead -

The domain name with an "s" leads to the WMATA website, the other leads to a parked site controlled by ROAR.

by Ted K. on Jun 4, 2011 9:55 pm • linkreport

Another mistake was to show Phase 1 of the Silver line going all the way to Dulles Airport.

Anyway, I agree with the consensus: Good general layout, but problems with details.

by BeyondDC on Jun 5, 2011 1:19 am • linkreport

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