The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


If the new Metro map used thin lines and a more contemporary design, this is what it might look like

Designer Cameron Booth won our 2011 contest to redesign the Metro map. Now, he's revised that design to show the Silver Line opened and reflect station name changes since then.

Map reposted with permission from Cameron Booth.

Metro didn't adopt Booth's design, but jury members (which included WMATA's Barbara Richardson as well as people from outside the agency) did like the way he replaced the old "boxy Volvo" parking symbols with a P (though Metro's new map uses a different P icon). And Booth put 90-degree turns on the southern Green Line, which the real map now sports as well.

You can view a large version on Flickr here.

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. 


Add a comment »

This is so, so much better than the existing map. More elegant, more informative (look how he's able to capture and explain the Yellow Line's ridiculous service patterns). And it even does a better job of showing where Metro doesn't go: the gaps in rail coverage are much more evident here.

What would it take to get WMATA to adopt this?

by Low Headways on Aug 6, 2014 12:35 pm • linkreport

I like it, but I have trouble seeing where most of the stations are supposed to be without looking closely. I hope to see thinner lines on the map's starting to look very crowded.

by bk on Aug 6, 2014 12:42 pm • linkreport

I note the little icon for the out-of-system connection between the Farraguts. I do not understand why WMATA stubbornly refuses to show this option on their map. It's not very-well publicized and I know a number of regular Metrorail riders who were quite surprised when I mentioned it, as they hadn't heard about it. It seems to me WMATA would want to publicize it if doing so might reduce crowding at Metro Center.

by Rich on Aug 6, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

Indeed. So much better.

by Jasper on Aug 6, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

Such a better map. Clever way of marking the stations, subtle but still noticeable, and resolves some debate on marking stations serving Blue, Orange, and Silver.

by Jamie Scott on Aug 6, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

The red line placement is kinda bizarre. Brookland is a good 2 miles from the city limits nor is Fort Totten all that close. The Orange Line through Arlington is noticeably off as well. I understand representational maps rather than realistic ones but this is just disorienting to me.

by BTA on Aug 6, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

I'm with bk here; those little bumps are hard to see. I feel like this is close to being a great map (I like the thinner lines and the attempt to better represent where the turns and twists are) but the station markers are misleading... especially at the eastern end of the Blue Line where the text jumps back and forth between above and below the line.

by GM on Aug 6, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

I like it, but I think the station "bumps" need to be made a little more prominent.

And though he manages to make the YL service patterns surprisingly clear, he doesn't really do much to explain short-turn RD trains besides adding in the terminal marking at Grosvenor and Silver Spring. I think that probably deserves a call-out in the legend as well.

by DC Transit Nerd on Aug 6, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

The Beltway is needless clutter that could easily be removed. It doesn't belong on a transit map anyway - no sidewalk & no bus stops.

by Ben Ross on Aug 6, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

The beltway is no more "needless clutter" than the river. Most people in Fairfax, MoCo and PG Counties see it as the most significant dividing line/geographical factor in the county.

by Simon on Aug 6, 2014 1:18 pm • linkreport

@Ben Ross

Metrorail isn't a pure transit's a hybrid with a significant commuter rail focus, don't forget. It's designed to get people from the suburbs into the core business districts. Seeing as park-and-ride is still a major component of commuter ridership, I think including the Beltway is fully justified.

by reality on Aug 6, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport

It's drivers who care about the Beltway. This map is for transit.

by Ben Ross on Aug 6, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport

Almost no on uses the Beltway for park and ride. For that you need I270, I66, I95, US50

by Ben Ross on Aug 6, 2014 1:22 pm • linkreport

Ben, that's simply not true. Everyone in Fairfax County (drivers or bus/rail riders) uses the beltway as a major orienter to place. Is it inside or outside the beltway? Even if you're not going to DRIVE ON the Beltway, it cuts the county in half in much the same way as Rock Creek Park cuts the city in half and people orient themselves by which side of the park they're on.

by Simon on Aug 6, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

Every station should be represented by a circle or pill, not by these illegible bumps. The major transfer stations can have double black lines outlining them much like they do now, regardless of their final shape.

by Dave G on Aug 6, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

I'm guessing that much of the opposition to including the Beltway on the map is more ideological than practical.

by reality on Aug 6, 2014 1:26 pm • linkreport

This just looks so much better it isn't funny.

by xtr657 on Aug 6, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

OMG...roads on the subway map!

by reality on Aug 6, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

Hi, Cameron (map designer) here! Thanks to GGW for featuring my map!

In all honesty, this was just a half-hour touch up of my previous map (from back in 2011) to bring the Silver Line up to date. The previous version had the old, unfinalised station names and the eastern end of the Silver Line was at Stadium-Armory... I hate to leave things unfinished, so here we are.

The purpose of this map for me has always been to take what's on the official map and present it in a different -- and in my opinion, better -- way. So everything that's on the official map is also present here, for better or for worse. That means that the Beltline is shown, regardless of whether or not I personally think its a good idea. My only informational additions are the depiction of the Farragut transfer and the reduced peak service on the Yellow Line. As for the short turnbacks on the Red Line... too difficult a service pattern to depict in my opinion. Sometimes you've just got to look at headboards and listen to train announcements. A static map is not always the place to try and show every variation in service.

by Cameron Booth on Aug 6, 2014 1:38 pm • linkreport


by 7r3y3r on Aug 6, 2014 1:43 pm • linkreport

One thing I like about Metro's "chunky" map is that it's easy to read from a distance. Considering the people relying on this map the most are going to be tourists, squinting at the map inside their train as they figure out how many more stops they have left until Smithsonian, readability from a distance is an important consideration. I'm not a huge fan of this alternative design for this reason (aside from its diminutive "Ronald Reagan"); the station "bumps," and also other details like the Yellow service patterns, are too difficult to discern from afar (or zoomed-out, in this case).

by Fran on Aug 6, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

+1 for Booth's "A static map is not always the place to try and show every variation in service." I think an asterisk for the Red Line would be sufficient, noting that during rush hour some trains short turn. Yellow line could similarly just state that proposition without the depiction.

I agree that the little bulb outs for the stations are too small. I think a dot or a line (in black) would be OK without risking turning this beautiful map into the WMATA version.

by JDC on Aug 6, 2014 1:51 pm • linkreport

@ Fran - both types of maps serve a purpose. The non-geographic map is helpful for the cases you point out. What is also helpful (but not readily available) is a map showing the realistic relation of Metro stations real life features of the area. The current map does a disservice in how it shows the National Mall in relation to Metro stations.

by JDC on Aug 6, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

@Rich +1

I agree. I just do not understand why the Farragut Crossing is not shown and is virtually impossible to learn about if you don't already know it exists. How would a newcomer to the DC area ever find out about it? Or for that matter a new Silver Line rider going to DuPont or Friendship Heights?

by Steve O on Aug 6, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

@JDC, WMATA's Metrobus maps () are much more helpful for locals than the Metrorail map, not only because they have better geographic context for everything but because it includes the entire, interconnected system, including Metrorail/Metrobus, MARC/VRE, and all the local/county bus services.

As for this alternative design, I too find the distortion in the Red/Green Lines in Northeast and Columbia Heights/Petworth to be disorienting; Columbia Heights is a lot closer to Rock Creek Park than this, in addition to Brookland being a lot farther from Eastern Ave.

by Fran on Aug 6, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

It's a very nice map. Honestly, I think the current silver-line map is the best official map since the original one which wasn't cluttered with peak lines and callouts, but this is obviously very well-made as well.

What's with the angle on the YL approaching Huntington, though? I think it'd look better just going straight down parallel with the Franconia-Springfield end.

by FBJ on Aug 6, 2014 2:24 pm • linkreport

There are vague signs at Farragut North (Red Line) pointing to "Farragut Crossing" and the Orange and Blue Line symbols. I transfer this way a few times per month. I believe the walls in Farragut West (Orange, Blue and Silver Lines) show an arrow up from the platform to the Red Line.

Helpful, but incomplete. The signage should be much better than 'yes, you can transfer here, but all we will tell you is the other lines are not on this platform!'

by Patrick on Aug 6, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

What a dramatic improvement over the current map! @WMATA, please take notice!

by Great on Aug 6, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

@ FBJ - I wonder about that, too. Maybe it's geographically correct, but when traveling that portion you don't get the sense that you're skewing hard west after leaving King St.

by JDC on Aug 6, 2014 2:40 pm • linkreport

Oh- one other thing, as is, the parking symbol looks distractingly similar to a line symbol- this is especially notable at the terminus stations, where it clashes a bit with the line markers- especially since the line markers have been reduced to a single letter here.

by FBJ on Aug 6, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

The Beltway is a useful visual reference and helps show people where the rail lines can be accessed so I think it is a net positive. It adds perspective to a map that doesn't do a great job of telling you where you are.

by steve strauss on Aug 6, 2014 3:00 pm • linkreport

I have to disagree with most of the comments. This map has its good points but it lacks the graphical appeal and iconic power of the official map and would be extremely difficult to read from any distance. Do the station names really have to be that small?

by jimble on Aug 6, 2014 4:17 pm • linkreport

Beautiful map. Has a certain airy elegance to it, and the line/stop style reminds me a lot of the BART map. Might be exactly why WMATA was against it.

But for practical purposes, I don't think it makes the cut. Gotta second the other comments that you couldn't read this easily from a distance. It may look nicer to have smaller & unbolded text, but its harder to read. Same with station markers the same color as the lines. Also, a lot of Metro users are tourists -- leaving the Capitol, White House, and Washington monument off the mall is a bad idea.

I didn't find the geographic distortions that much worse than the current version (which are already pretty significant), though. I'd say it might be worth the sacrifice to get the station names & marker better lined up. The yellow line markings are pretty good, too, but again wouldn't be understandable from a distance.

Its certainly better conceptually than the current map. I just don't think you're going to get something that passes the 5 feet viewing test and yet look clean. Sometimes messy works better.

by Vinnie on Aug 6, 2014 4:42 pm • linkreport

Gotta second the other comments that you couldn't read this easily from a distance.

I'd reserve judgment on this until we ever see a blown up IRL version (probably never gonna happen but bear with me). Maybe you all trust your instincts better but I don't know if I can leave my opinion up to just my computer screen.

by drumz on Aug 6, 2014 5:27 pm • linkreport

I still love this map.

Just a small graphical point to make, Cameron. I noticed that, right above the NoMa station, the white border to the station marker is off just a tad, such that the red station marker is not surrounded by a white border but just above it a white border juts out from the red line.

by Max on Aug 6, 2014 9:16 pm • linkreport

Looks good to me. Leaves room for more lines.

by Thayer-D on Aug 6, 2014 9:28 pm • linkreport

I really like this map style. Not a fan of the station-bumps, but in general the layout is beautifully done.

Just wanted to point out that I think I see a typo: the Phase II of the Silver Line says it's opening in 2018 at the top left, but at very bottom it says opening in 2016.

by Kevin S.B. on Aug 7, 2014 12:45 am • linkreport

Hi all! Thanks for your thoughts and feedback on the map. Based on them, I've made further edits to the map this evening -- think this should just about do it for me!

Changes include the addition of parkland along the Anacostia River as shown on the official map, lengthened station ticks so that they're not so "nubby", route designation letters in circles instead of squares so that they can't be confused with the parking icon, proper designation of Wiehle-Reston East as the current western terminus of the Silver Line, and a few minor fixes and clean ups here and there -- mostly based on the things eagle-eyed GGW readers have found.

The Flickr link David posted in the article will now take you to the new revised version.

by Cameron Booth on Aug 7, 2014 1:19 am • linkreport

So far so good :-) I would also consider adding the federally-ownded parklands along the Potomac River going upstream from Georgetown/Rossyln as that contains the C&O Towpath, CCT, Potomac Heritage Trail, etc. Also on north side of National Airport. Done similarly to the Anacostia River. The more such green on the map, the better.

by Dave G on Aug 7, 2014 9:02 am • linkreport

This is a real cool-looking map! It seems to be more accurate than the current map that Metro is using in a its' stations and trains. WMATA ought to consider the designer's interpretation of the Metrorail system.

by Roy J. Johnson on Aug 7, 2014 9:15 am • linkreport

"Illegible bumps" - That would be news to Europeans, who routinely use little bumps for non-transfer stations. I guess the Europeans have better eyesight than Americans do... maybe it's all that government-provided healthcare?

"Hard to read the font from a distance" - really? Have you seen the new system maps with Silver posted in stations and on trains? The lines making up the letters are so thin now and overlap the colors in some places, rendering them just as difficult to see.

(Before I get a whole bunch of "wait, you just railed on everyone's eyesight and then said the font size is too thin... I'm not saying I personally find either map hard to read from a distance... I'm just saying I've seen a lot more people leaning in and squinting to read the new system maps with Silver Line lately.)

by Dave on Aug 8, 2014 7:31 am • linkreport

And please, for the love of God, don't add any more parkland to the map. Most people on most days are not using transit to access parks... they're using it to access man-made features, like "workplaces" and "shopping" and then eventually "neighborhoods" (aka "home"). Parks are places visited on weekends/evenings... when it's nice out... sometimes. They do not deserve any more prominence than they already have on the current map!

by Dave But Not Dave G on Aug 8, 2014 7:36 am • linkreport

LOL@"Dave But Not Dave G" - buddy, just use "Dave" cuz I'm sticking with "Dave G" (although I used to be "DaveG"). Or did you mean to use "Dave but not Dave?" LOL B-)

But to address your comment, maybe some people do use transit to access the Mall, Rock Creek Park, Anacostia River parks, etc. Besides it helps emphasize the main rivers on the map which helps to orient people in relation to the Metro. Other than Rock Creek Park, I draw the line at the parklands lining the major waterways. Anything else is too much information for the map, I agree.

by Dave G on Aug 8, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us