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Metro considers labeling trains as Northbound, Southbound, etc. as part of new sign concept

You might soon be catching a Southbound Green Line train to L'Enfant Plaza and transfer to an Eastbound Orange Line train, if Metro goes ahead with a concept to revamp signs and navigation in the rail system.

The agency took a fresh look at its wayfinding signs because of a number of problems, including accessibility for people with disabilities, really confusing designs, and more. Officials came up with a new concept, ran it by people internally, and last night shared it with the Riders' Advisory Council.

North, south, east, west

The biggest change would be to drop the system of identifying directions by the ends of the lines. Instead of taking a Green Line train toward Branch Avenue or Greenbelt, you'd take it northbound or southbound.

Left: Current pylon design. Right: New concept pylon design.

Certainly this direction system can be confusing for many people, especially new riders, for whom these ends of lines mean little. It's particularly easy to get mixed up with the Red Line, where trains can go to Glenmont, Shady Grove, Grosvenor, and Silver Spring. But the two "S" directions aren't on the same side, nor are the two 2-word directions.

On the other hand, the Red Line makes a U shape, so telling someone to get on the Westbound Red Line at Wheaton, when the tracks really head south and a bit east, might still leave some room for confusion. Riders from Franconia to Pentagon would have one track for both Eastbound Blue Line trains and Northbound Yellow Line trains. The Blue Line train also heads west before it heads east, though the trains do ultimately go east and north.

Matt Johnson examined this possibility in a post in 2010, but also noted the above issues. Other possibilities include "inbound/outbound," as Boston's T does, picking a spot (such as Metro Center) where the directions flip; or listing the next major stations, as Munich does.

The strip maps would also get simpler and just show stations you can reach with a one-seat ride from the current platform, like Matt recommended. There would be only a few different signs; and stations with the same lines would all have the same signs, with the current station marked with a white background.

Current strip map (for Rosslyn).

New strip maps (for Pentagon City)

More dots on the map?

Another part of the presentation shows tweaks to the system map. Metro officials spent months agonizing over how to show stations where multiple lines all stop, since the old system of one small circle in between two lines doesn't work for three lines.

The agency eventually settled on a scheme of using the same small circles but with little white "whiskers" linking it to the lines on each side. It seems they aren't happy with this in the Jackson Graham Building, because the new concept tosses this out and instead puts a separate circle on each line.

New concept system map.

The current system map.

Alternate "pill" option from 2013 redesign.

To me, this looks really busy and messy. What do you think? Another problem is that transfer stations still have a single small-ish circle, so it might even look like Silver and Blue trains don't stop at L'Enfant Plaza. Certainly the transfer stations are now much less prominent, which is the opposite of what should be.

In our 2011 map contest, someone actually did suggest something like this scheme: Matt Johnson, whose entry used pairs or triples of dots. However, he used bigger dots that link together, which I at least think looks much nicer than this. He made the transfer stations much larger, though the problem still exists on his version.

Matt Johnson's map contest entry.

The ends of each line now say "West Terminus" and so forth. It's a minor thing, but "terminus" seems like an unnecessarily technical word to use. There's also got to be a more elegant graphical way to include those labels.

What do you think about using north/south/east/west and the map concept?

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Four of the six lines work well with directional coordinates. But when you're at Union Station heading toward Glenmont are you going north or east? When you're on the Blue Line at Pentagon going towards Largo, are you going west, then east? I think this causes more confusion.

by Adam L on Jul 10, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

"Inbound" and "Outbound" in relation to Downtown would be much simpler and easier to understand.

by august4 on Jul 10, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

The reason "Uptown/Downtown" and "Inbound/Outbound" work in NY and Boston is because the lines are pretty straight. In DC, Red and Blue are NOT straight. Destinations work better when lines don't follow straight paths.

I approve of the new strip maps, but directional names are just asking for confusion.

by AndrewB on Jul 10, 2014 10:45 am • linkreport

Highway signage has worked this way for years. There are stretches of the Capital Beltway that are signed as both Eastbound or Westbound I-495 and Northbound or Southbound I-95. Same with N/S I-81 sharing a road with E/W I-64. Plus, even though US-29 crosses Northern Virginia from west to east, it's (mostly?) signed north and south, since that's the main direction of the full highway. If drivers can get used to that, I think riders can adapt to analogous signage.

Regarding the proposed map: I see the multiple dots for stations as a step backwards. It communicates that there's more than one station at each location -- stations that are adjacent to each other -- instead of one station.

by c5karl on Jul 10, 2014 10:48 am • linkreport

Direction is just a bad idea. Please, please, no.

The new map - dots for you, dots for you, dots for you! - is also pretty hideous. And it does minimize the transfer stations. I once again support the winner of GGW's map contest, who created an elegant map where multiple lines didn't create a minefield for the eyes.

by JDC on Jul 10, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

Inbound and outbound could work, but being that the Metro is no longer just for getting into and out of DC (Silver Line now makes it also for going to and from Tyson's), there are some difficulties, and some people may be upset with the center-point definition.

Also, picking Metro Center over Gallery Place for the Red Line would be rather arbitrary. Don't both see similar Red Line traffic?

by David on Jul 10, 2014 10:53 am • linkreport

Let's not forget the current system of using the ends of the lines as waypoints has its own problems. There are lots of people who routinely ride from, say, Farragut North to Union Station who have never been to Shady Grove or Glenmont. As a Virginian, I almost always have to stop and think for a second to figure out which Red Line train to board. Eastbound and Westbound aren't perfect, but it would make it easier for me to know which train to board at Metro Center to get to Ft. Totten or Woodley Park.

by c5karl on Jul 10, 2014 10:55 am • linkreport

Using compass directions instead of destinations is a bad idea. Many people already get confused enough, on what (I think) is a very simple system compared to others around the country. This would make it far more confusing to them and many others.

As already noted, directions would only be practical on the Yellow and Orange Lines anyway, since those are the only lines that are relatively straight and don't veer more than 90 degrees from their original headings. The Green and Red Lines make radical directional changes on their inbound and outbound legs. The Blue Line turns 90 degrees at Rosslyn.

I don't like the whiskers design either (imho the "pill" design is far superior), but having one circle for each line even at transfer points, is a very bad, poorly thought-through idea.

by King Terrapin on Jul 10, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

You can't think of the cardinal direction method as referring to the particular direction you are traveling at any given moment. Generally it's used to express the overall direction or difference in direction from the start to the end (like Interstates, as previously mentioned). So the Red Line would be an east-west line which would indeed make it simpler to navigate, I think. You'd know whether you were headed to a destination on the east or west side of its U shape.

by boybert on Jul 10, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

How Boston does it is to have four stations designated as the center stations (Park, D/T Xing, State, and Gov Center). At any station other than those, you are either going inbound towards those stations, or outbound away from them. At those stations, they use end point designations just like DC.

How DC could implement something similar is to have all downtown stations still use end point indicators, but use inbound/outbound for everything else. From McPherson Square, inbound/outbound isn't entirely clear, but from Rosslyn, Woodley Park, NOMA, I'd say it's quite clear.

by alex on Jul 10, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

When I first moved to DC, I could not keep the Red Line straight. But I figured out this: if I need to ride the Glenmont line, it's probably because I am going to Silver Spring. So, I should do the opposite of what is intuitive, and get on the train that does NOT start with an S.

by Hadur on Jul 10, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

Here's a refinement that might help. The ends of the lines are remote and have changed several times over the system's history. People are more likely to know the location and direction of adjacent stations. This would require more text, but what about this kind of signage?

At Arlington Cemetery, for example, the signs could read:

<< Pentagon and Points West
Rosslyn and Points East >>

Another example: Judiciary Sq.

<< Gallery Place and Points West
Union Station and Points East >>

This wouldn't work on the trains themselves. They'd have to be labeled Northbound, Southbound, Eastbound or Westbound.

by c5karl on Jul 10, 2014 11:04 am • linkreport

This is a GREAT idea, the best option is listing the next station like Munich. The "end of the line" stations are meaningless for tourists and many riders that live in DC and don't go to the suburbs. Please make this change.

by Frank on Jul 10, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

Since I live on the Red Line that's the line that I am most interested in. In Maryland you could just is "DC" and the end of the line as the directions. Then in DC you could use "downtown" for the trains that are heading that way. Within the core you could use either Union Station or Silver Spring for one direction, depending on the station, and Metro Center and Bethesda for the other direction. I think that would serve most people well. After 5+ years in DC I still couldn't tell you where Shady Grove or Glenmont are but I do know Bethesda and Silver Spring. For a more DC focus you could also use Takoma and Tennleytown.

by TakomaNick on Jul 10, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

Aside from the directional confusion others mentioned, this basically flies in the face of what is a very widely accepted method of finding your way in a subway. Get on train labeled with the last stop in your direction.

And I hate the way the Beltway is labeled. It would be better to say and either "Outer Loop" or "Inner Loop". That always makes more sense to me than cardinal directions (for just the reasons discussed here).

by RDHD on Jul 10, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

I live in Boston and while "inbound"/"outbound" seems logical, it introduces other problems, especially if you cross the downtown core on your ride. If you ride from South Station to Harvard, for example (a not uncommon ride at all), you get on an "inbound" train at South Station but it's an "outbound" train by the time you get to Harvard and when you return, you get on an inbound train again. Not so confusing for a resident, but for a visitor, it might seem counter-intuitive that you get on an "inbound" train both times when you are making a South Station-Harvard round trip.

It's also worth noting that at the core four stations, Boston uses the destination names ("Alewife", "Ashmont/Braintree," etc.) anyway.

For a brief moment, I wondered if "Maryland-bound"/"Virginia-bound" trains might be feasible, a la "Brooklyn-bound"/"Queens-bound" trains in NYC, but then I realized that the Red and Green lines don't work with this system, since both directions would technically be "Maryland-bound." Drat!

by Andrew on Jul 10, 2014 11:15 am • linkreport

Aside from the directional confusion others mentioned, this basically flies in the face of what is a very widely accepted method of finding your way in a subway. Get on train labeled with the last stop in your direction.

Not when accompanied with the changes to the map. Shady Grove is not just a station, but it is also the West Terminus. Westbound Red Line trains go towards the West Terminus, which is hopefully more intuitive than getting new riders to differentiate between Glenmont and Shady Grove. But the key to making it work (in light of the fact that a red line train to Shady Grove is really heading North, not West) is in changing the emphasis on the map.

Hopefully, this would also emphasize the directionality rather than the terminus. This could avoid the situation I've seen where visitors are on the platform at Metro Center, wanting to take the Red Line to the Zoo. They see a RL train to Grosvenor pull up, and they don't get on - since they know they need a Red Line train to Shady Grove.

by Alex B. on Jul 10, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

I think this is a great suggestion, I have never been, or never want to travel to Vienna, Franconia-Springfield, New Carrolton, Largo Town Center or any other foresaken suburb. As a point of reference they are meaningless to most people, they might as well on Mars. East-West isn't perfect, but hey, it works for the 495 so why not here? Much better for tourists too.

Inbound/outbound is problematic because from metro center perspective there would be 2 outbound lines for each train, and which one do you take?

by InnerCore on Jul 10, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

Could it be that each of our brains work differently. I feel like I have a very acute sense of cardinal directions but have a horrible time remembering names like Glenmont, Shadygrove, Largo Town Center, etc.

So while I think the East/West/North/South labeling would be helpful for me, the names are probably a lot easier for someone that is good with names but bad with directions.

by sk on Jul 10, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

I vote in favor of the directions idea, even with some of the issues that have to be ironed out. I've been getting on and off at Union Station for 5 years now and if someone asks me which direction they need to go I still can't remember which G-name (Grovesnor or Glenmont) or S-name (Silver Spring or Shady Grove) is the right one to go towards. I'd much prefer for East-West as the labels.

by Dan on Jul 10, 2014 11:24 am • linkreport

I'm glad WMATA is looking at ways to improve wayfinding and legibility.
Overall, the new signage looks a lot clearer and easier to read. But the
issue of using cardinal directions vs. terminal station is what Jarrett
Walker describes as the "to/via" problem:

If this were a bus route (or the New York subway, or any
other city where the subway lines follow a single street) we could say (for
instance) "Red Line train TO Shady Grove VIA Connecticut Avenue." Lacking that, the cardinal directions (or inbound/outbound) help solve the "via" problem.

That said, I think this proposal would be much stronger if the signs
reflected both the terminal and a direction. Just as the terminals aren't necessarily useful for the cool kids in DC like InnerCore, those headed outbound need to know where they're actually going. To that end, it would be helpful if the terminals were BOLD on the map, because they're one of the main pieces of information riders need to know.

by dan reed! on Jul 10, 2014 11:24 am • linkreport

Ugh, NO to the multiple dots! That looks awful. They should just make the lines thinner. I understand the thick lines are "iconic" and all, but maybe it's time to reevaluate now that Metro is adding lines.

Also, the cardinal directions only really work for the Orange, Silver, Green, and Yellow lines. For Blue and Red they're just confusing, which is why I think they should just stick with the train destinations. The London Underground uses the same system and it works fine.

by wheatonian on Jul 10, 2014 11:28 am • linkreport

After 10 years here I still get confused by metro (and forget about the Beltway). I'll live! Just look at maps a lot, and always build in a few more minutes to reach a destination.

Tourists will live too. Those who have their own subway at home will figure it out faster than those who don't, but it's part of the fun of travelling. Directions will NOT help them.

by yup yup on Jul 10, 2014 11:30 am • linkreport

c5karl, I think that's a great idea. Red will still be slightly unintuitive at its ends, but I think that's made up for by the improvement of the rest of the system.

One possible alteration would be to make Red swap directions, being South/North when it's in Maryland and East/West in DC. There's nowhere in Maryland where it makes sense to use RD from one side to the other (instead of taking a bus), so East/West is pretty meaningless. I'm not sure if the switch would make it more or less confusing.

As an aside, Hadur, I've been here a year and the directions on Red still aren't automatic for me. I grew up near Glenmont, NY, and from my apartment all the long-distance travel options here require taking a Glenmont-bound train, so I use that as my memory trick.

by TheOtherGlenmont on Jul 10, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes on directional coordinates! People bring up the Red Line as a supposed counterexample, but it's really not that hard: at Union Station, trains will be labelled "Northeast" for the Glenmont direction, and "Downtown/Northwest" for the Shady Grove direction.

by Tom Veil on Jul 10, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

For me the Red line is always problematic. I don't have any idea where Glenmont or Shady Grove really are - but they are both up in Maryland somewhere. If they were to say "Wheaton" and "Rockville", it would be far more informative, but those stations aren't the terminus.

So those few times when I do need to take the Red line, I always have to stop and look at the map to figure out which way I need to go.

Once the Silver line is open, we will probably use Metro more often.

by Eric on Jul 10, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

Why do we always limit ourselves with a strict one-size-fits-all philosophy? Consistency can be great, but inconsitency works fine in many parts of life when straying from the standards makes sense.

For example, why limit ourselves to North, South, East, and West when the Redline could maybe use Northeast and Northwest? Works somewhat nicely since a decent portion of the east side of the Redline runs through NE DC.

Or maybe the upper ends could use North and South and then transfer at some point to signify Northeast and Northwest when just North doesn't make it clear which directions it's going.

Personally, I'd have no problem if some signs used a compass and others used something like "Washington DC" or "Virginia" or "Maryland". Mix and match to whatever works best at different stations. Would that really be more confusing than Glenmont vs Largo vs Huntington? At least use stations/areas that people are going to be familiar with, like the road network does.

Admittedly, I'm far from a transportation specialist and have absolutely no reason to believe a variable system would work. Just find it interesting that these types of discussion always focus on having to pick one way over another.

by jh on Jul 10, 2014 11:37 am • linkreport

The directional signs would be much more helpful for me as I have a picture memory. I have to think which red line train every single time.

by vance on Jul 10, 2014 11:40 am • linkreport

The London Underground uses directional signage, though since several lines have branches or turn-backs, one also has to look at an incoming train to identify the destination (unless traveling only inside the Circle Line in which case it makes no difference). Our Metro took its inspiration, I think, from Paris, where all lines are signed by end-point destination. I can still remember my first trip to Paris many years ago trying to trace a particular color through the spaghetti of lines to find the end. Of course I eventually got the hang of it, and now I can navigate around Paris, London, or home here in DC without much thought. But I would argue that for tourists, the London system works better. Visually I like all the changes except the system map...I think the time may have come to use much thinner lines and use station names sized according to how many lines use them.

by Roe B. on Jul 10, 2014 11:40 am • linkreport

I agree, wheatonian, the dots are a horrible idea; I have no clue what they were thinking.

I considered suggesting NW/NE for Red in my last comment. The reason I didn't is that the west side travels in a decisively southwest direction until Brookland. I'm not sure if that's more or less confusing for people in Maryland than having the direction switch from South to West partway through the ride. That would make what Alex B. said (pointing out boldly on the map which terminus is which direction; I think saying "end" rather than "terminus" would probably help OP's concerns) hard, though.

by TheOtherGlenmont on Jul 10, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport

Feel like this would be better as Arlington-Bound, Alexandria-Bound, PG-Bound, etc..

by Tmm on Jul 10, 2014 11:55 am • linkreport

The transition to "Google maps" probably has made people less sensitive to this kind of info than in the past. The destinations are more useful; even more directional systems use this or give it more emphasis (NYC, Chicago, Atlanta, etc.)

by Rich on Jul 10, 2014 11:56 am • linkreport

This proposal isn't perfect, but it's much better than the current system.

The east-west designation for the Red line is not as confusing as the final destination method we have now. When I'm changing at Metro Center, I'm always confusing Shady Grove, Grosvenor and Glenmont, and since the platform's on the outside, it's a long walk to make the correction.

Would the directions be on the trains themselves, or just in the stations? If just the stations, it might be better make the blue line North/South in Virginia and East/West through DC and PG. That way, the destination will be clearer for people waiting at the Rosslyn split.

Similar direction changes could be used for the splits at Stadium/Armory, EFC, and King Street, although not as useful.

by Novanglus on Jul 10, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

Inbound/Outbound for in-station signage + each train listing the next stop on the outside banners instead of the terminus. If inbound/outbound is good enough for GGW's anti-spammer, why not elsewhere?

As for the demarcation stations, I'll throw down an arbitrary decision of Metro Center for all but the Y/G and Archives for the Y/G.

Where multiples lines share a track, have there been any examples of the candy-striping (i.e., alternating diagonals of Y/G, S/B/O). Admittedly, as seen in my mind's eye, the S/B/O could be a visual overload.

by Washingtonian on Jul 10, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

Good. A lot of people can't tell you where they are in relation to a landmark using cardinal directions. I know plenty of people who don't know that Silver Spring is to the north or that Tyson's is to the west. Now they'll have no other choice.

by Dion on Jul 10, 2014 11:58 am • linkreport

More system maps on the platform would also make things easier.

by Capt. Hilts on Jul 10, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

This directional sign debate is interesting. It brings to mind I-64 in South Hampton Roads, where the road signed as 64 East is actually travelling west, from South Norfolk to the terminus in Chesapeake, as part of the HR Beltway.

by enjoymoreradio on Jul 10, 2014 12:03 pm • linkreport

Ain't that the truth enjoymoreradio!

Even natives get the N-S, E-W thing with 64 mixed up - for good reason.

by Capt. Hilts on Jul 10, 2014 12:05 pm • linkreport

How would this work with Rush Plus/Silver Line Schedule trains? How would you call out a Franconia-bound Yellow Line train?

by MLD on Jul 10, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

There does not need to be a one-size-fits-all solution. On the interstate highway system, sometimes directional works better and sometimes terminating location works better. The metro map is not a math problem, after all.

by aaa on Jul 10, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

oh, and the map of a thousand dots looks busy and overly complicated.

by aaa on Jul 10, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

Metro should stop doing environmental graphics in house, and hire Pentagram or another firm that specializes in wayfinding signage, and one that could respectfully update the Vingelli designed pylons and signage. A firm like Pentagram could also help tweak Lance Wyman's transit diagram.

by JP on Jul 10, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

I like the idea. However, how would metro be able to indicate trains that stop short of or go beyond the line's actual terminus (e.g., Mt. Vernon Square and Grosvenor during rush or Rush Plus)?

by BT on Jul 10, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

Someone earlier hit the nail on the head: our brains work differently. Every argument I've read for the cardinal directions seems absolutely crazy to me and present as many problems as described by the detractors of the current system. But I'm sure my arguments make no sense to others. Whichever method you use, you will still have the problems of lost tourists and people too stupid or stubborn to stop and read a map. Off the Red line I will be one of them. Which way is Tysons? Cause I always think of it as south. But it's not actually from virtually any place I'm likely to be.

And how would you mark a Red line train going to Grovesnor to distinguish it from SG?

And as I've said many times, it doesn't matter if you know where Shady Grove is, only that it is the terminus of the Red Line in that one direction. I've traveled all over Europe not understanding station names or neighborhoods, but knowing "I need to take Line A towards X and get off at Y." The name itself is meaningless.

by RDHD on Jul 10, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

Instead of just using Westbound, Eastbound etc why not have a combination of both. Westbound toward Vienna/Whiele, Eastbound toward New Carrolton/Largo Town Center etc.

This way you know in which direction you are going but also what the terminus of the line is. Stuff would also be a lot less confusing if we got rid of the short trips on the Red, Orange & Yellow Lines and just have one terminus

Or just switch to a number or letter based system to avoid adding multiple colors to the map so you could have one line on the map but noting which lines go where like many other systems do

by kk on Jul 10, 2014 12:33 pm • linkreport

I happen to like the N/S/E/W-bound system, because I too do a double-take when I'm at Gallery Place and need to head to White Flint or Rockville. To alleviate any scenario where trains end short of the line's terminus, however, I propose the usage of "WB Grosvenor" or "SB Anacostia" on trains (if possible). This would tie-in with "Westbound to Vienna" and "Southbound to Huntington" on signage.

In regards to the dots on the signs, I actually like the "whiskers" currently being used, but wish they were a bit more pronounced. Three dots, as others have said, looks too much like there are three stations at the same spot.

by ND on Jul 10, 2014 12:40 pm • linkreport

Unless they are adding more maps to the stations just directions such as West/East/North/Southbound are bad. There needs to be more info added suchas West/East/North/Southbound to/toward (Terminus).

With mention of ADA signs how about making the damn print bigger. The maps have print that is too small as due the fare boards at every station that is a lot of room that is available. They could use an empty wall and put the fares of there in a larger print that all could see from more than 1 foot away.

by kk on Jul 10, 2014 12:42 pm • linkreport

"This directional sign debate is interesting. It brings to mind I-64 in South Hampton Roads, where the road signed as 64 East is actually travelling west, from South Norfolk to the terminus in Chesapeake, as part of the HR Beltway."

It makes about as much sense to me as the I-81 and I-77 concurrence at Wytheville, where 81N is also 77S and it is almost perfectly west to east on the compass.

by Another Nick on Jul 10, 2014 12:45 pm • linkreport

I think this is a great idea. I certainly find eastbound and Westbound easier than trying to remember terminal stations, most of which I will never visit. I lived in Boston for many years, and the system works fine there. The terminus-labeling system is particularly problematic when the terminus changes on the trains. If I give you directions to take a Shady grove bound train, should you get on the Grosvenor train?
Of course, it is true that different people's brains work differently. Some find cardinal directions easier than landmarks, some have the opposite experience. Why not use both systems in parallel? "Blue Line Eastbound to Largo"

The red line is a little confusing, of course, but as @jh points out, there's no need for a foolish consistency. The Red could switch in the center from inbound to outbound, or north to south, or whatever. That's the price you pay for having a stupid U-line.

by alurin on Jul 10, 2014 12:50 pm • linkreport

First, no, no, no to multiple dots, at least as they show them. I thought we were agreed that we wanted to thin the lines as much as possible while maintaining clarity.

On the directions front, I'm coming around on that. The thing I'm concerned about is that the WMATA PDF proposes using the directions exclusively, dropping the to/via names all together. I'd be much more inclined to support it if it kept some kind of destination on the sign, such as the "via Downtown"/"via National Airport" signs we have now and the "via Tysons" signs we're probably getting.

The direction can still be the main thing, it's just that I've lost count of the number of frantic luggage-toting people who've stopped me on the lower level of Gallery Place asking which way to the airport as two trains pull up.

by Peter K on Jul 10, 2014 12:57 pm • linkreport

Someone actually looked at all those dots and said wow that looks good or is so much better than what we have now?! Unbelievable...

by Alex on Jul 10, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

Why not just both and add the directionals in a smaller font below? Everyone who is used to the system knows the terminal stations so why screw us up?

by BTA on Jul 10, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

Why not "Inbound/Outbound via Metro Center" or for G/Y via Gallery Place? Inbound/Outbound works well in Boston, and like DC, has more than one 'hub' station (Park St, Downtown Crossing, Government Ctr and to some extent State Street). But DC does like to over complicate things so not holding my breath on that one....

by Jay Boucher on Jul 10, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

Wow, there are some really bad ideas going on in Metro HQ. The multiple dots are the worst thing I have seen in a really long time. Adding text to state "east/west terminus" is insulting to anyone with half a brain and probably makes no sense anyway to those with less than half a brain. I think the proposed map with the Silver Line looks great. No need to change.

by xtr657 on Jul 10, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

I can see Metro going to this new directional system....and then reversing course 2-3 years later and having to re-print all of the signage.

by JDC on Jul 10, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

So... we have a solution. Now, let's find a problem!

If people like directions better than destinations, fine. But we should acknowledge that that will make Metro different from most other transit systems around the world. As a result there will be more, not less, lost out-of-towners on the Metro (stopping at the bottom of escalators to look at their pocket maps while rush-hour commuters stumble over them). There's tremendous value in keeping things simple and consistent with other systems whenever possible. And here, it's definitely possible.

If a change must be made, how about keeping the current system for Red/Green, but modifying routes that cross the Potomac to include "Virginia-bound" (in MD and DC) and "Maryland-bound" (in VA and DC). For example, at Ballston you would hear, "Maryland-bound Orange Line to New Carrollton."

One more thing. Until we have pre-recorded announcements on all of the trains, any proposal should limit the number of syllables a train operator needs to announce at each station. "Orange Line; Vienna," is a lot shorter than "Inbound Orange Line; East to Vienna via Downtown Washington, DC and Rosslyn." I submit that operators simply aren't going to make the latter announcement clearly and consistently at every station. And, when you increase the number of variations between one end of the line and the other (by adding "via" an intermediate point or using inbound/outbound) the potential for error increases.

by Jimmy on Jul 10, 2014 1:38 pm • linkreport

I have no problem with the East, West, North, South as it follows the Kelly Johnson KISS (Keep It Simple Stuped) rule,

Operationally the tracks are also labeled inbound and outbound with Metro Center, Red, Blue, Orange and Silver and Gallery Place Green and Yellow being the center points of the routes.

As to the map, I say stick with the single circle, narrow the line widths so the single circle touches all 3 lines where applicable and the same size circle is bigger then the width of the single lines.

by Sand Box John on Jul 10, 2014 2:03 pm • linkreport

I'd second Jay Bucher's post - have the ones going toward downtown say they're going "via Metro Center" or some other station, but otherwise leave the end station naming alone.

by Moose on Jul 10, 2014 2:06 pm • linkreport

The major issue with signage on Metro is being able to give (and remember) simple, meaningful and successful directions.
When I tell my visiting family what train to take from my house [U st.] to Union Station I can't be sure what to tell them about the transfer at Gallery Place. Will the train be a Silver Spring train? A Glenmont train? How do I tell them to get to that Eastbound track without them having to write down a list of potential terminal stations?

"Inbound/Outbound" and cardinal both solve this problem. You just say "Get on the Eastbound/Outbound Red line train and take it two stops." The direction name is a word they already know (and so won't forget) rather than an arbitrary name ("Was it Glenmong or Grosvenor??"). And it will always be the same.

by egk on Jul 10, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

How about switching to clear, enunciated, pre-recorded station announcements and directional announcements in the trains. They do this to announce closing doors and warnings about suspicious packages. Most of the on-board train announcements seem slurred.

by Alf on Jul 10, 2014 3:00 pm • linkreport

All this whisker/pill/triple dot silliness could have been avoided if the Silver Line had been designated as a branch of the Orange line in a Y-fork/dragon's tongue.

by duncan on Jul 10, 2014 3:06 pm • linkreport

I agree with everyone above that the super dot map is just ridiculous unless wmata just wants to pretend that they suddenly doubled the number of stations by opening the silver line.

As for directional signage I'm not a huge fan but I do think the similar looking end points can get confusing.

What I would propose is kind of a big overhaul but here goes.
Color each train by the core line. This would combine the yellow and green as well as the silver, orange and blue. There would only be 3 colors as there are only 3 core lines. Next pick one side of each line to be characters and the other will be numbers. Each end point gets a different character/number ie. Shady Grove = Red A and Grosvenor = Red B while Glemont = Red 1 and Silver Spring = Red 2. Trains would switch from a character to a number when they reach their terminus. This could be combined with the current labeling with station names and the character vs number would be similar to the direction. Also it would eliminate the illusion that there are 5, soon to be 6, lines when in reality there are just 3 core lines. This scheme would allow wmata to balance trains going to different endpoints as they could adjust the ratio of a:b:c trains for each core line and eliminate the odd locked endpoint pairing that the current system causes necessitating rush plus lines.

Hopefully my explanation makes sense, I've been thinking about it for a while. I would make a concept map but I'm not good at design and also I'm lazy.

by Eric on Jul 10, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

What would actually be helpful is if the stations had alphanumeric identifiers, as in Tokyo. Then all you need is signs giving the identifier of the next station in each direction and you immediately know which way to go.

No matter what they do they will still have to give the terminus for each train to account for trains that don't go all the way to the end of the line.

by alexandrian on Jul 10, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

@ Eric

No it does not make sense

1 It would confuse riders more; the problem at the moment is short trip trains such as Red Lines to Grovesnor & Silver Spring; Orange Lines to West Falls Church & Stadium Armory; Yellow Lines to Ft Totten, Greenbelt, Mt Vernon, Huntington & Franconia Springfield

a The only way to solve the problem as stated in point 1 would be to either convert each train with different terminals into a separate color or go to a system of letters or numbers. The other option would be to not run short run trains at all which would be better for all.

Or simple put that trains ending at Grovsnor, Mt Vernon, Silver Spring, Ft Totten etc served all stops up until that station so that if you are trying to go to a stop that is before the stops listed above you can take this train.

3 Changing all to 3 colors helps nothing due to several reasons as followed

a Speaker system would need to be under-graded so you could actually hear what is being said.

b Blind, Color Blind and Deaf riders would be unable to determine which train is which if there is ever a mistake on the signing or operator makes a mistake.

c Maps

A better solution would be converting all the lines into numbers or letters. For example

Silver Line = S Line, Blue Line = B Line and so fourth and designate short run trips by a 1 or something following the letter.

So for example a S train would go from New Carrolton to Vienna and a S1 would go from West Falls Church to Stadium Armory as added service during Rush Hour.

When it comes to the map I would suggest

Having only one line drawn on the map (one line representing Blue, Orange & Silver between Stadium Armory & Rosslyn) the same for others which share portions

Have that one lined multicolored like a Candy Cane which is Red and White but instead of those colors have it be Blue, Orange & Silver. At places where lines split the one line splits into multiple lines


Have that one line any one but then have little boxes along the sides where stops are similar to bus route maps saying which lines serve this stop

by kk on Jul 10, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

The dots would look great *IF AND ONLY IF* the lines were shrunk and the dots were linked, as in the contest entry. I hate the whiskers, so I'm all for trying again.

I like the N/S/W/E designations. Inbound outbound would work too.

by anon_clarendon on Jul 10, 2014 6:05 pm • linkreport

You can use the directional and end station labels since both don't need to be used in the same instance. For example, the station pylons and other signs would use the directional labels while the train would use the end station since no westbound Red Line train is going to show up on the eastbound Red Line platform. (...unless they're single tracking during maintenance. Ugh!)

by 7r3y3r on Jul 10, 2014 6:23 pm • linkreport

Use INBOUND and OUTBOUND from Metro Center and Gallery Place!

by Luther Rice on Jul 10, 2014 7:00 pm • linkreport

Map E in the GGW contest used directional names for the endpoints of each line - "Green North," "Red West" -

I think the directions could be a helpful clarification to unfamiliar riders - whether you think of it as the "direction of travel" or just the "location of the terminus." The trains and signs would still need to indicate short-turn destinations, whether like "RD WEST GROV" vs. "RED WEST," or something similar.

But I think it's a good step to acknowledge that people think about Metro wayfinding in different ways, and that we should try to accommodate more of them.

by Yellow Liner on Jul 10, 2014 8:27 pm • linkreport

I've always been a big fan of the "Eastbound" concept. I'm on the Orange Line, and I feel obliged to explain to guests that "New Carrollton" is a sort of code-word for "East," and Vienna really means "West." For a while I used a silly memory trick I invented to distinguish between Shady Grove and Glenmont, but that's been unnecessary ever since the time I actually rode to Shady Grove with a friend. On the Green Line, I still have to concentrate or I'll travel in the wrong direction. "Branch Avenue" might as well be "fhqwhgads" - either way, I have to mentally translate it to "Southbound." All of this can be avoided if we just say "Southbound" in the first place. It would be one less step in the Metro navigation process, and that's a good thing.

by Ryan A on Jul 10, 2014 8:36 pm • linkreport

I would also point out that the anti-spam map challenge question refers to traveling "inbound" from Minnesota Avenue - not "toward Vienna."

by Ryan A on Jul 10, 2014 8:38 pm • linkreport

It would be interesting to see if everyone's opinions on the method (terminus, cardinal directions, in/outbound) varies by where each person lives and/or works.

I live at Shady Grove and, having also lived in Boston for a few years, I like the inbound/outbound idea. (On Boston's Green Line, I don't think the in/out terminology is used when traveling between Park St. and Gov't Ctr. If I remember correctly, all the lines still bear prominent signage of the terminal stations in addition to saying inbound/outbound.)

I don't like N/S/E/W as much because, as has been pointed out, some of the lines are just so bent that it would be a stretch to have the cardinal directions be accurate.

by AL on Jul 10, 2014 9:12 pm • linkreport

I hate this so hard. It makes people who are directionally challenged and would not know a terminus from a transporter have to spend 10x longer getting anywhere. To the point that highways do this, yes, but you're also outside and can see landmarks to tell you if you mess up. In the metro all you see is Soviet-esque architecture and only go outside when you've really messed up. Additionally, as many tourist sights are on the red line, this would be an additional headache for them (and for us!) to get from place to place. No. No. No.

by Rachel E on Jul 10, 2014 10:00 pm • linkreport

Oh this is such a welcome development. I have lived off and on in DC for almost 15 years, and I still struggle with the directions of the lines. Which way is Glenmont? I have no idea. Anything to help with my problem of connecting directions with the names of far out suburban cities would be excellent.

Another thing I would like for Metro to adopt is a very cool thing I saw in Shanghai last year. They number their exits/entrances. So, for instance each separate Metro exit is numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. This is particularly helpful at places where there are lots of exits, for example Metro Center - where you would know to get out at Exit 1 on 10th Street or something similar. When you give directions to someone, you say, I will meet you at the entrance to Exit 3.

by PFGO on Jul 10, 2014 11:32 pm • linkreport

How about inbound/outbound with destinations in smaller font? For the Red Line, you could split it between Metro Center and Gallery Place into two lines, interlined. This would be similar to the K/T bifurcation on the San Francisco Muni Metro or red/green split on the Taipei Metro.

The Toronto Transit Commission had a good mockup using directions and destinations (in smaller font): On the Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) subway, although they use yellow consistently, one end is labeled "Yonge" and the other "University-Spadina". Toronto has great design standards and this might be something to look at.

by calwatch on Jul 11, 2014 12:05 am • linkreport

The main problem is you still have to give the end point because not everything goes to the end of the line on the Red and Yellow lines. Plus when they do maintenance they have to tell you that the train is only going to NoMA or whatever.

I would add West/East/North/South to the station wall signs but leave the trains as is. So take the red line as an example... There are still trains (normally) to Shady Grove, Silver Spring, Glenmont, Grosvenor. However in the station it would say South/North to Metro Center, then East/West and then North/South again. The trains would not say this but which side of the platform to use would be marked on the wall: this side goes to the west. This would work okay except when they are single tracking... Which all of these schemes fail at anyway.

They are also trying to reduce the number of sign variations they have to make.

What if instead of East/West we used a marker of some kind.

The Beltway doesn't do north/south it does inner and outer... What is needed as an abstraction that is easy to say that doesn't mean anything. That is like people could say the counter clock wise loop of the beltway but they just say outer loop. The same could be done here if a clever abstraction/symbol could be used for the endpoints of each line.

by Brian on Jul 11, 2014 1:07 am • linkreport

I agree the lines are still thick on Metro's iconic map, but if the lines are thinned out, the problem is the circles representing regular stations would then be made to the thickness of a single line. To require that the circle touch all three routes without whiskers or pills in places where the lines are tripled, and for them to remain consistent in size throughout the map, the regular station circles would have to be much larger than a single line. They would overwhelm the line and look unattractive. Whiskers in my opinion are the least disruptive.

by Dave B. on Jul 11, 2014 4:48 am • linkreport

If I were to allow myself to go with three circles on a triple line. I would mimic the two-line one regular sized circle down the middle option. Try putting two regular sized circles down the middle lines of a three-line route. Link them with a whisker (white or black), and put a smaller white circle between them (like two pearls with a smaller orb in the middle.

by Dave B. on Jul 11, 2014 5:22 am • linkreport

Correction: Now that I look at it, there would be no room for a middle circle. It would be two circles touching on triple-line routes. That's no better than a pill shape to me.

by Dave B. on Jul 11, 2014 5:28 am • linkreport

@PFGO - Paris' metro uses numbered exists, and I came to LOVE that when visiting. It's very helpful for guests, tourists, and non-English speakers. Even I sometimes cannot remember if I need an exit on 10th or 13th from X station. Being able to just remember exit "1" or "5" is much easier...though I would keep the signs showing the streets as well.

by JDC on Jul 11, 2014 8:50 am • linkreport

For Red Line -- Inbound with a "hyphen" or "slash." So: Inbound -- South and East or Inbound/South and West. Outbound/North and West or Outbound -- North and East.

At Metro Center, it's imperative that direction be included for all lines, because all lines would suddenly be outbound. The Red Line model above would work for all lines there.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jul 11, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

I feel this is a completely unnecessary and confusing change. Not to mention a waste of money that could go towards other things that commuters actually need. Functioning AC in all trains, ExitFare machines that accept credit cards, and better turn styles (personally I would be a fan of overhead RFID scanners).

by Bethany on Jul 11, 2014 12:04 pm • linkreport

I really am wholeheartedly against the use of "Inbound/Outbound" to refer to these lines. It's one thing if the lines actually terminated within the downtown area, but none do. I had this issue in Boston, where I took an "Inbound Train" into town. I logically thought the Outbound train would take me back to my home station...oops I continued to travel the same direction away from my original station.

Eastbound and Westbound, Northbound and Southbound...I think that they would be a good thing to ADD to the maps and signs, but not at the expense of using the terminal stations on the signs. This is especially important on the Red Line, where there is a short turn system during rush hours, as well as the Yellow Line with its varying termini for Rush Plus, peak hour, and off-peak services.

I really like the contest winner's idea for the "multiple trains stopping at a station" as it is easier to see how the lines work together as they stop at each station, rather than adding separate dots as if each line has its own platform.

by Brandon S. on Jul 11, 2014 12:17 pm • linkreport

I don't like the dots. Using a pill shape to denote a stop along the blue/silver/orange is best.

As far as direction goes, cardinal directions at the stations would be useful, but not on the trains. So for instance at Smithsonian, I should be directed to either eastbound or westbound platforms, and the signs on the platform should show where Eastbound trains go toward New Carrolton and Largo or where westbound trains go toward Wiehle, F/S, or Vienna. But the trains should have the destination to account for some of the short-turning that is frequently done (especially on the Red Line).

BLUE: between Rosslyn and Largo: E-W
BLUE: between Rosslyn and F/S: N-S

RED: between Noma and Glenmont: N-S
RED: between Dupont and Shady Grove: N-S
RED: between Farragut North and Union Station: Northeast and Northwest

by mrsman on Jul 11, 2014 12:21 pm • linkreport

I'm going to second the "context-driven directional" signing way of labeling platforms / trains. Having a "Westbound" and "Eastbound" is perfect, but only when a train is going west or east. The highway example is apt -- in Chicago you take I-55 west to the suburbs, but its signed "I-55 South", which confuses a lot of people.

So? Switch what the direction names are based on which way the line is going. Add in "to downtown" or "to [place]" and airport icons for extra help.


Union Station --
<<< Westbound to Downtown DC
Northbound to Silver Spring, MD >>>

Foggy Bottom --
<<< Westbound to Fairfax Co. / Alexandria, VA (perhaps "via Arlington")
Eastbound to Downtown DC (or perhaps "Prince George's Co., MD via Downtown DC" >>>

Crystal City --
<<< Southbound to Alexandria, VA + an airport icon (or perhaps "Fairfax, VA via Alexandria" for destination)
Northbound to Downtown DC (perhaps "via Pentagon") >>>

Bethesda --
<<< Southbound to Downtown DC (or perhaps "Silver Spring, MD via Downtown DC")
Northbound to Montgomery Co. MD >>>

by Vinnie on Jul 11, 2014 2:37 pm • linkreport

The map solution seems simple to me -- use the "pill" version & span the entire length of EVERY interlined segment (not just blue/orange/silver). And then "strech" any transfer station to cover all intersecting lines. The problem is inconsistency with the current design.

by Vinnie on Jul 11, 2014 2:40 pm • linkreport

Using the terminal station to identify train direction (as we do it today) is the best solution.

Northbound/Southbound wayfinding works best with subway lines that are oriented as such (Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York)

Inbound/Outbound can work for a hub-and-spoke system such as ours (or Boston's). But unlike Boston, each line on Metro has many downtown stations... so designating Inbound/Outbound direction can be arbitrary and confusing. e.g. is Gallery Place to Metro Center Inbound or Outbound?

The only problem is that Metro's new signage increasingly stinks, partiularly when combined with station names that are still too long and cumbersome (Wiehle - Reston East).

The Paris Metro has some long station names, but with good signage and graphics makes it easy for tourists and newcomers to navigate by using the name of the station terminal to indicate line direction. BART in San Francisco does this well with simple signage and simple station names.

Don't even get me started with these new map proposals.

Metro: Please travel to other great cities (not just Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, with all due respect) and see what works and what doesn't. It's time to pay some real money for some good design staff. Import them from somewhere if you have to (like New York, or London, and not the Government Printing Office). The signage is increasingly cluttered, tacky AND it doesn't communicate anything useful. It's an awful combo. Let's not take the Metro map there as well.

by dcnative on Jul 11, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

I simply find the direction method unsuitable for the Metro. Yes we have tourists and our local regular riders. To be honest, not a lot of people out there can read a map or tell you how to get from here to there on one. Eastbound or Westbound seems meaningless on the Red Line since it goes east and west twice due to its U shape. End point destination is the best. What we need is a better way to explain WHAT SIDE at a multi level transfer station is the train you need.

by gary on Jul 11, 2014 3:58 pm • linkreport

Wish WMATA would travel to some great cities and notice that somehow places with less budget still run them a lot longer at night.

by asffa on Jul 11, 2014 4:10 pm • linkreport

i like the Inbound/Outbound system Boston's MBTA uses. For Metro, inbound would be travelling toward Metro Center, Chinatown, or L'Enfant. Two examples for Metro lines would be:

For Orange line eastbound:
Vienna-Smithsonian: Inbound to New Carrollton
L'Enfant-New Carrolton: Outbound to NewCarrollton

For Red Line clockwise:
Wheaton-Chinatown: Inbound to Shady Grove
Metro Center-Shady Grove: Outbound to Shady Grove

by dcseain on Jul 11, 2014 8:22 pm • linkreport


What are the systems and relative budgets you are referencing?

If you run longer into the night when will you do track work on a two line system?

Is a half open system in the very late night hours with a different routing every day better than no system in the late night? (That is I assume they can't be working on the entire system so one might be able to extensively single track).

At what ridership level are buses just as good as subway? (That is how about buses running the exact train route late night instead when ridership would be tiny).

What is the maximum tolerable headway (time between trains)?

by Brian on Jul 12, 2014 5:07 pm • linkreport

This is probably not practical or possible, but here in Chicago, most lines terminate at a highly known destination spot, Orange Line - Midway Airport, Blue Line - Ohare Airport. The Red, Brown, and Green don't have that, but, our lines also are pretty straightforward with turns mostly only to accommodate coming into the loop. The final map towards the end of the article seems to at least clean up the amount of type and confusion with the circles. Hope it works out for the most efficient.

by Joseph on Jul 12, 2014 7:31 pm • linkreport

Brian - In a major city, nobody should have to leave around 11 ish to be sure they'll be in time to ride the subway back to connect to the Red Line, yet that's exactly what's defended by WMATA, week after week M-Th, even if they aren't doing track-work and repairs on a line. Late night buses from DC to MD stop at Silver Spring, if you can get on one.
That's ridiculous.
( No one wants to advertise that outside Silver Spring Metro late night is not a great place to wait for a pickup. Don't tell me I'm too sensitive if I think it's creepy. )
I think the plan for the future brand-new Purple Line, involves running hours meeting the low expectations caused of WMATA, where taxpayers pay a whole lot for sub-par service. The whole plan says that even if some track is brand new, they won't run it. They never want to have Metro really work as the car alternative.

by asffa on Jul 13, 2014 1:05 am • linkreport

I'm glad someone at Metro has realized the signage system is confusing and unwieldy. The new scheme is an improvement across the board and would be easier for residents to use. I can't tell if it would be easier for tourists and short term visitors. Metro should also consider some combination of direction and destination, like the Toronto proposal the calwatch linked to above.

I agree the multidot map design is terrible and so are the thicker lines, different colors, etc. The current map design seems okay to me; why do they want to change it?

There could be more elegant and understandable ways to add the terminal labels like "East Terminus." Maybe the color balls at the end of each line could be combined with the direction labels. If a combo system like Toronto's is used, those terminal labels aren't needed.

by Laurence Aurbach on Jul 13, 2014 12:47 pm • linkreport

This is stupid. If everyone understands that the endpoints indicate the direction of travel, why make things more complicated???

by DaveG on Jul 13, 2014 7:24 pm • linkreport

Anything but the current system would be an improvement (though cardinal directions would show the least improvement). I like having Gallery Place and Metro Center the respective switching points for inbound/outbound.

But we could also keep the endpoint wayfinding and make it more useful for tourists by adding a "via" to the directions. For instance, "this is a Red Line train to Shady Grove via Dupont Circle"; "this is a Green Line train to Branch Avenue via L'Enfant Plaza"; "Blue Line train to Largo via Metro Center." The specific vias would change depending on current station, but in general, you would say [x line] train to [endpoint] via [the next popular core station].

As for the map, ugh, gross. Still a mistake to use the original Wyman design - the winner of GGW's competition (was it not Cameron Booth?) was infinitely better.

by LowHeadways on Jul 15, 2014 11:26 am • linkreport

I'd love it if they used directional words instead of terminal names on platform and in-train signage. This works for all lines but Blue and Red.

For Blue, they could use "Maryland-bound" and "Virginia-bound" instead.

For Red, they could distort the map further to make the U look more like a wide V, then adopt "eastbound" and "westbound." (I mean, it's not as if the system map is supposed to be used for actual walking to/from stations anyway, given it's not to scale. So shove Glenmont further NE and Shady Grove further NW until the line looks more east-west than it actually is.)

by Dave on Jul 15, 2014 1:21 pm • linkreport

I mean, if we simply got over the idea that the "map" needs to be so geographically accurate and treated it more like the schematic diagram that it is... we could make the lines more "north-south" and "east-west" appearing than they are... and fit them into narrow signs. I'm envisioning something a bit more geographically accurate (and visually attractive) but still diagrammatic like this:

by Dave on Jul 15, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

One thing that does distinguish the two branches of the Red Line is how they pass thru DC before enteringMaryland. The western branches passes thru NW, and at Union Station the line enters NE. Also, maybe one could distinguish the ends of the Red Line by Eastern and Western Montgomery County, MD

by Matthew Huerta on Jul 15, 2014 5:33 pm • linkreport

@Matthew Huerta

They both pass through NW before entering NE; Takoma is in NW

by kk on Jul 15, 2014 8:53 pm • linkreport

"The strip maps would also get simpler and just show stations you can reach with a one-seat ride from the current platform"
I don't understand why they show 'upstream' stops. For example, the 'eastbound' map for Smithsonian shows all the stops to the west!

If you're gign to have direction-specific maps (a good thing), don't include stops that aren't in that direction!

by Tom West on Jul 16, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

The more information, the better.

Boston stations say "Inbound to Lechmere via Park"
Or Inbound to Ashmont and Braintree via Park and SDxtwn Crossing"

No reason not to have "Outbound to terminus via Union Station" and "Outbound to terminus via Bethesda"

Some people like direction. Some like terminus. Some like via. WHY NOT ALL?

by JJJJ on Jul 16, 2014 3:42 pm • linkreport

I really think MBTA does signage right and that WMATA could learn a lot from them. In Boston, if you look out a window in a station, you know where you are. Not so in DC, for example.

by dcseain on Jul 16, 2014 6:41 pm • linkreport

Inbound and outbound are definitely the way to go; Metro Center is the logical defining point -- it was always designed (as the name implies) to be the heart of the system. This is a much-needed refinement. Using Eastbound and Westbound would add confusion rahter than diminish it.

by Stryguy on Jul 17, 2014 3:42 pm • linkreport

If cardinal directions are used, they should change at different points along the line to make sense for that particular station. For example, at Pentagon city both the blue line and the yellow line are heading southbound.

Downtown, intermediary stations are most helpful to make transfers (westbound via union station, eastbound via gallery place).

by Omar on Jul 19, 2014 3:08 pm • linkreport

For graphically representing 3-line stations, the pill option is my favorite. It's the most clear, least duplicative, identifiable at a glance, and it respects the intent of the original map's design.

by Omar on Jul 19, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

I live in Boston, and I personally dream of graffiti-ing over all the "inbound/outbound" signage, to scribble "north/south/east/west" instead. Unless one is *extremely* well-versed in the system, cardinal directions are more helpful than IB/OB. It doesn't help that, here, the terminal stations are usually in teeny type under the huge IB/OB lettering.

For tourists especially, trying to figure out at what point an inbound train becomes an outbound train is almost impossible. Not every train connects to every downtown station, for example. Even having lived here almost 4 years, I'm still not sure where the trains change their status... For some lines, the change seems to happen somewhere between two stations; absolutely unnecessary.

In everyday travels, if you're boarding or transferring anywhere near the downtown area, you have to stop and think, "am I north or south of X station?" **You have to find a map to find out where you are relative to the Magic Changeover Station, and then decide based on that.** What if you know that you live north of the city? Ideally, you'd just hop on the appropriate NB train, but you can't do that in an IN/OB system.

For trains that don't run exactly along a cardinal direction, guess what-- "north/east" is only a slash longer than "outbound."

I think we could ALL take a hint from NYC, however. "Uptown & Queens," "Downtown & Brooklyn..." Just tell riders the general direction in which they are headed. Direction relative to the city center is almost useless for newbies and tourists--tell them where they're *actually* going. They can figure out the exact stop they need once they're on the platform/in the train car.

by Zach Mears on Aug 14, 2014 3:13 am • linkreport

Gravedigging this post to leave a comment for Alex Block, who asked for my critique of this proposal. Here goes:

1. The strip maps are indeed much better than the disasters we have up now, but still not perfect. For example, take the disconnected dashed line for Rush Plus south of King Street on this strip. It's very confusing to anyone who doesn't already understand the system. It needs to connect to the main yellow line, so people know that's a spur of the main line and not a shuttle that only goes back and forth from King Street to Springfield (which is what it looks like in the proposal).

2. I'm very skeptical about replacing terminus-based wayfinding with directional wayfinding. It introduces just as many complications as it solves (such as on the Red Line which is really more of a north/south route than east/west), and requires riders to have more of a mental map of the region. It's not simpler, and seems to be trying to solve a problem that nobody has ever complained about.

3. Adding the word "Station" to every entrance pylon accomplishes nothing except clutter.

4. Adding individual dots to every line on the system map vastly reduces its readability, cluttering it significantly.

Overall, this consultant seems to produce proposal after proposal that seek to change things that don't need to be changed, adding hard-to-decipher clutter where the order should be simple and direct. They violate the KISS principle. I hope WMATA has the good sense to fix the strip maps, and leave the rest well enough alone.

by BeyondDC on Apr 20, 2015 9:29 pm • linkreport

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