Adding places to station names creates unnecessary transfers
Several neighborhoods and organizations have proposed renaming Metro stations to make a single destination easy to find. But each of these can bring the unintended consequence of making the whole system more confusing to navigate.
At first glance, renaming "Navy Yard" to "Navy Yard-Ballpark" seems like a fine idea, since it is the station that most fans use to get to games.
However, many arrive by exiting at Capitol South and walking down New Jersey Avenue. In fact, for anyone coming in on the Orange or Blue lines, Capitol South is often a better place to exit the system.
Similarly, there are other destinations that people often make unnecessary transfers to reach. Adding "Ballpark" to the Navy Yard station name may seem harmless at first, but what it does is to announce that it is the one and only station to get to the ballpark.
Metro's out-of-scale map means that riders are especially susceptible to sloppily-named stations. People don't realize, for example, how close Dupont Circle is to Farragut West, or how close Metro Center is to Gallery Place, so they often wind up making unnecessary transfers. How many tourists have transferred to a Blue or Orange Line train so that they could use the "Smithsonian" station, when numerous other stations would have gotten them to the National Mall?
Kurt Raschke notes that in New York City, there are five subway stations called "23rd Street" rather than the neighborhoods that contain them. There's a good reason for this. These stations are very close together, so if you're traveling anywhere in the vicinity of 23rd Street, you might as well take whatever subway line you're closest to, exit at the respective 23rd Street station, and walk to your final destination.
If, on the other hand, each of those five stations were named after a unique neighborhood, someone traveling to Chelsea might think they need to make an unnecessary transfer so they can eventually arrive at the "Chelsea" station, even though the "Flatiron District" station and the "Gramercy Park" stations might get them there with less hassle.
My own house is about a quarter mile from the U Street station, and a little more than half a mile from the Dupont Circle station. Depending on where I'm going, it might make more sense to walk a greater distance, and get on a Red line train, rather than the shorter distance to Green or Yellow.
Anyone who's familiar with the Metro system knows these little tricks, but someone who's not might naively take a less convenient route. It might be because the out-of-scale map makes it difficult for them to conceptualize where they are, or, in light of station naming, because they don't realize there is more than a single station that will get them where they need to go. And isn't it those people who these new station names are supposed to help?
Cross-posted at Extraordinary Observations.
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