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


Breakfast links I: Cluttered news

Photo by Mr. T in DC.
Metro too cluttered?: Massimo Vignelli, who designed the original signs and brown pylons on the Metro system, thinks the signs have gotten too cluttered (AP) ... DCist finds it unsurprising that a designer wanted his original design kept pure.

Bus driver harasses, not punished?: A Metrobus driver sexually harassed a 16-year-old girl, but police say they can't do anything because he didn't touch her, keep her on the bus, or explicitly ask for sex. (The Sexist)

The doc explains: Why won't the Silver Line have stops at Wolf Trap and Reston Town Center? How will the Beltway HOT lanes work? (Post)

Call 911 if you get hit: A taxi driver hit Mark Blacknell, chair of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee. Blacknell says she should have called 911 right away; he instead just recorded the cab's info, but police didn't want to take a report later. (WashCycle)

Anti-cycle rampager caught: A San Francisco driver hit four cyclists within a few minutes last week. The vehicle's owner, David Mark Clark, reported it carjacked, but police believe he was the perpetrator. (Streetsblog SF, SFist)

Build on parking, not garden: Instead of destroying a community garden, Tommy Wells wants the Marine Corps to build on an existing parking garage. (Post)

Real cities have theaters: At least two 20-somethings are eager for change at Tysons Corner ... that change might include a theater. (Connection)

Can White House Urban Affairs do something?: Adolfo Carrion, head of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, is moving to HUD after accomplishing virtually nothing with the new office. Is the problem the small office, its interdisciplinary nature, or Carrion himself, who was never much of a policy guy? (Architect's Newspaper via Streetsblog)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it 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 »

The pylons suck. The sideways writing is impossible to read from a train. The signage, in general, is not good compared to other subway systems. It is very difficult to figure out which station is which when sitting on a train.

by aaa on Jun 7, 2010 9:26 am • linkreport

Being the WMATA purest that I am, I have to agree with Vignelli. I never liked the strip maps, station names and other clutter attached to the walls.

The uniqueness of the design is one didn't have to read the station name from right to left when looking out the right side of the car. Vignelli points out that fact in the article "As a result, Metro put up signs that read left to right on the walls of stations." The same fact was pointed out to me when I first toured the stations when they were under construction back in the early 1970s.

The flaw in design is, it really didn't take into consideration the deterioration of the brightness of the lighting in the station because accumulated dirt compounded by the tinted glass in the cars.

If I had it my way the station names on the platform pylons would be back lit like M at the top of the entrance pylons. I don't expect to ever see that happen.

by Sand Box John on Jun 7, 2010 9:31 am • linkreport

Agree that Tysons needs some sort of civic/cultural attraction other than the shopping malls and offices. Wolf Trap is nearby, but I was thinking an indoor concert-hall/theater complex would be great--something with a Lincoln Center-style plaza that encourages a walkable/vibrant street life. Not sure who you could get to perform--lots of competition in the area!

by Nick J on Jun 7, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

I can see Vignelli's point, but I don't think it jibes with reality. If I'm on a crowded train and I'm reading a book or something, I want to be able to glance up and see what station I'm at quickly - and looking out the windows to a crowded platform or through a crowded trains means that more signage increases my chance of getting that information quickly.

I'd agree with Sand Box John that some of the strip maps on the station walls are too much and not really all that effective, but I do think the station names on the walls are just fine and don't need to be a distraction to the visuals of the vault at all. Many subway systems around the world turn the repetition of the station signage into a visual element itself.

by Alex B. on Jun 7, 2010 9:42 am • linkreport

The Silver Line will have a station at Reston Parkway (Reston Town Center). It's in the second phase, though.

by Ben Ross on Jun 7, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

@Ben Ross

I believe Joan Pifer thinks Reston Parkway should have been included as part of Phase I or is uninformed of the fact that the Silver line is a two phase project.

One of the early incarnation of metrorail in the Dulles Corridor only went as far as terminal station in the median of the Access Road west of Leesburg Pike. That station was to have parking and a bus terminal to handle passengers coming from points west.

by Sand Box John on Jun 7, 2010 10:14 am • linkreport

Something I didn't know before...but the pylons in the underground stations are also part of the ventilation system...this got mentioned by the panelists at the meeting (which I attended).

by Froggie on Jun 7, 2010 10:31 am • linkreport


Only the 24" wide pylons in island platform subway stations. The air return is under the benches in those stations.

by Sand Box John on Jun 7, 2010 10:44 am • linkreport

The Pylons are nice, but...... they need to be removed from the Red Line platforms at Gallery Place.

Also, somebody needs to strip "Visitors Center" off of the Union Station pylons.

by andrew on Jun 7, 2010 10:44 am • linkreport

John: thanks...I was reciting from memory and generalizing...

by Froggie on Jun 7, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport


The solution is not to removing the pylons from Gallery Place, the solution is procure enough rolling stock to eliminating platform crowding by running trains at shorter headways.

After doing the above put the pylons back on the platform at Farragut West and the other stations in Virginia on the Orange line.

Visitors Center can't be striped off the Union Station pylons as the lettering is baked on, it can only be covered or replaced.

by Sand Box John on Jun 7, 2010 11:04 am • linkreport

Re: Station at Wolf Trap
I remember seeing a Silver Line map a while back with a dotted circle where a "future Wolf Trap infill station" was to go. Anyone else recall that?

by David T on Jun 7, 2010 11:29 am • linkreport

Like Froggie, I was at the Vignelli talk on Saturday. My recollection was not that he said the signs were cluttered, but that the stations were cluttered. His main objections were to egregious amounts of advertising and anything mounted on the vaults.

Like Sand Box John, I'm a Metro purist. I object to other changes far more than the horizontal-type, wall-mounted signs, but they do stray from the design of the system. As was pointed out by other panelists, since the wall-mounted signs are 50 feet apart, they don't guarantee that you can see them either.

And as Vignelli pointed out, the vertical text is much easier to read when the train is in motion. With the horizontal signs, the letters whiz by too fast to read, but the vertical signs are much easier to read.

He also joked that he'd never seen anyone dead at the bottom of a bookcase (from having to struggle to read vertical text).

But what I found most objectionable was the response from a Metro staffer to my question about the lack of pylons at the second-generation stations (NY Ave, Morgan Blv, Largo). He said that the existing pylons were considered "historic" and would stay, but that Metro wouldn't be adding new ones. The pylons are among the most recognized symbols of Metro, and they are a common characteristic throughout the system.

The same person objected to, among other things, excessive advertising, wall mounted signs, and the lack of a brown stripe on the 7000-series cars, but didn't see a problem with not installing platform pylons at new stations. sigh.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 7, 2010 11:40 am • linkreport

I'll disagree on the Gallery Place issue -- even with trains running at their maximum 2-3 minute headways, the westbound Red Line platform gets crowded around the "T" junction, as virtually all of the people boarding the train are entering and exiting the platform from a single point (and more problematically, a single point at which 6-car trains do not stop)

Removing the pylons and other unnecessary platform obstructions won't be the only thing necessary to solve the problem, but it'll be a start.

On a similar gripe, there's another "blank" pylon obstructing access to the escalator connecting the westbound RL platform to the GL/YL platform downstairs.

by andrew on Jun 7, 2010 12:46 pm • linkreport

The absence of a Wolf Trap station is particularly odd--did Wolf Trap not want to give up the parking revenue? It wouldn't even need to be open 80% of the time--trains could just go straight through, with no staffing at non-event hours.

by ah on Jun 7, 2010 1:01 pm • linkreport

The Silver Line station at Wolf Trap is "deferred". That means that room will be left for a station that can be constructed when money is available and ridership warrants.

A similar deferred station site exists on the Blue Line between King Street and Van Dorn Street at Quaker Lane (near the Alexandria Rail Yard).

by Matt Johnson on Jun 7, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport


The station would still cost a lot of money to build. It makes no sense to build a station and then not use it. If this were commuter rail, that would be different.

Wolf Trap alone can't justify a Metro station - so, you could use Wolf Trap's parking lots for park and ride services, but the local roads in the area would be strained to handle that kind of traffic on a daily basis.

by Alex B. on Jun 7, 2010 1:06 pm • linkreport

David, your blurb on the harassment story rather understates the concern. Sexual harassment per se is usually not a police issue (although with a minor, it may well be). But WMATA employees harassing riders - particularly minor riders - is quite unacceptable. WMATA is apparently not in any hurry to discipline the driver - that's awful.

If it was my daughter, I would go talk to a lawyer.

by DavidDuck on Jun 7, 2010 6:04 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

There never were any plans to build a station at Wolf Trap as part of the original project. There were plans in both DEIS and FEIS to built provision for a future station. However during all the cost cutting debate between the FTA, MWAA and Dulles Transit Partners a change order was executed to eliminate the future provision. See fta_tab1c_2_1_08.pdf (5.99 MB PDF file)

For those that attended the panel discussion. Did any body make an audio recording of the discussion? If so who made it where might one be able to hear it?

I would have loved to have attended but I had personal matters to attend to that day.

by Sand Box John on Jun 7, 2010 11:31 pm • 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