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Proposed "Blue Line split": why blue?

Last month, WMATA announced it was considering a service change to "shift some peak period Blue Line trains to operate over the Yellow Line bridge to L'Enfant Plaza to Greenbelt." WMATA's diagram and the Post's map show this new service in blue. But why?

Much less confusing than Blue Line trains
running up 7th Street

These trains would follow the Yellow Line route from King Street through downtown and on to Fort Totten (and beyond). Wouldn't the logical color, then, be Yellow?

The WMATA presentation points out potential rider confusion from a "blue line split." If the trains running through L'Enfant Plaza are blue, that sure would, with some Blue Line trains on one level and others on another, going four different ways. Some have suggested a new color, an "Aqua Line". DCist's article on the topic generated all kinds of comments meant to reduce confusion, like just adding more Yellow Line trains from Huntington instead, or starting them at King Street, or a shuttle, or... It's as if for some reason there is a new Commandment, Yellow Colored Trains Shalt Not Go to Franconia-Springfield.

This makes no sense. Under the plan, four trains per hour leaving Franconia-Springfield would take the Yellow Line bridge instead of running through Arlington Cemetery to Rosslyn and then into DC from the west. That would free up room at Rosslyn for four more Orange Line trains from Vienna (the most crowded suburban branch of the system). To keep service the same at Largo, the new Orange Line trains would run to Largo instead of New Carrollton. But nobody is saying that we need a new color for Vienna-Largo service. Orange works just fine. Likewise, Yellow would be a fine color for Franconia-Greenbelt service.

Here's a map. Isn't this so much simpler and less confusing than this or this? Of course, the real solution to the capacity bottleneck at Rosslyn is to build the separated Blue Line, like the one on this map.

Update: Dr. Gridlock does advocate something similar at the end of his column on this. But a recent Post article (I think it was Sunday's Commuter Page, which is never online for some reason) was back to the "blue line" nomenclature.

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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That Metro didn't think of this from the beginning speaks volumes about their competency. Good work. I would suggest emailing WMATA that picture, including the WaPo reporter.

by NikolasM on Mar 12, 2008 1:22 pm • linkreport

applause to you.

by Steve on Mar 12, 2008 1:45 pm • linkreport

This makes the most sense, as WMATA would only have to change signage for 2 stations, instead of 9.

by TJ on Mar 12, 2008 2:43 pm • linkreport

Yes! Yes! Yes! You've taken something that would completely confusing and made it clear as a bell. Great work.

by Matt on Mar 12, 2008 3:07 pm • linkreport

Incidentally, the original proposal for Metro called for Yellow Line trains to operate from Greenbelt to Franconia and Springfield (separate stations) and for Blue Line trains to operate between Addison Road and Huntington. However, when the extension from King Street to Huntington opened, there was a shortage of cars. Because the Yellow Line requires fewer cars to operate, a decision was made to route Yellow Line service to Huntington while leaving Blue Service at King Street (until Van Dorn and Franc-Springd opened.

For good documentation, see Dr. Zachary Shrag's book, "Great Society Subway" (ISBN: 0-8012-8246-X). Map is on page 252.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 12, 2008 4:24 pm • linkreport

Makes sense to me. Is the reason that WMATA is calling it a blue line because they are following the same schedule in Alexandria as current blue line trains? That's the only possible reason I can think of for NOT going with your suggestion, and even that isn't a compelling reason. As a Yellow line rider myself, I find your map WAY more clear.

by Ben on Mar 14, 2008 4:12 pm • linkreport

That map is a winner. Good work!

by Laurence Aurbach on Mar 15, 2008 9:00 am • linkreport

This happens because the media are programmed to look at Metro from the viewpoint of someone who parks at the end of the line and commutes in to work. They don't think from the viewpoint of someone who lives in the city and uses Metro to get around.

by Another Ben on Mar 15, 2008 5:09 pm • linkreport

The "Why?" is because the orange line is jammed and they are out of capacity in the Rosslyn tunnel. They want to reroute the blue line trains to make more room in the tunnel for orange line trains. Plus, if/when the "silver" line kicks in, they'll need to reroute even more trains, unless they build a new tunnel or bridge.

by Michael on Mar 25, 2008 10:30 am • linkreport

Congrats on this map. I also suggest that you send it to WMATA as well.

by Zac on Mar 28, 2008 12:43 pm • linkreport

I totally agree this is simpler. Why call something the same line if it's going to go to radically different destinations??

by Matt on Mar 11, 2011 1:00 pm • linkreport

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