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


Contest: Design a better Metro map

Do you think you can design a better Metro map? We're having a contest to see what a new Metro map could look like.

The iconic map.

The traditional map has kept its basic form since 1976. Now, there are several reasons for a change. The Silver Line to Tysons Corner will open in 2014. But before that, the "Yellow and Orange Line service increase" will also force a map revision for 2012.

WMATA has retained the original map designer, Lance Wyman, to redesign the map. It's unclear how close he'll keep the new map to the original. But you don't have to replicate the original. In fact, we encourage you to be as creative as you wish in designing a map.

Based on what the WMATA Board has requested, there are some design constraints. The basic line colors should stay the same, but you should feel free to be flexible when denoting alternate services, if you choose.

Maps should also include the first and second phases of the Silver Line as a future line. Phase I is under construction. Phase II is in planning. Feel free to show those as you wish.

The following services will be operating. It is your choice how to show each:

  • Shady Grove ⇔ Glenmont
  • Grosvenor ⇔ Silver Spring
  • Shady Grove ⇔ Silver Spring (off-peak only)
  • Vienna ⇔ New Carrollton
  • West Falls Church ⇔ Largo Town Center (peak only)
  • Franconia-Springfield ⇔ Largo Town Center
  • Huntington ⇔ Mount Vernon Square
  • Huntington ⇔ Fort Totten (off-peak only)
  • Franconia-Springfield ⇔ Greenbelt (peak only)
  • Branch Avenue ⇔ Greenbelt
  • Route 772 or Reston-Wiehle Avenue ⇔ Stadium-Armory (future)
Some stations will change names, but for this contest, use the current names. For the new Silver Line stations, use the proposed names.

While Metro hasn't definitively committed to calling the line to Tysons and Dulles the "Silver Line," it's very likely they will, so your map should as well.

Metro plans an out-of-system transfer between Farragut North and Farragut West to start this fall. Please depict this on your map too.

The current printed Metro map has a variety of other information and symbols. You are free to include or not include these items, or add others, as you feel appropriate:

  • Names of the lines
  • Endpoints of the lines
  • Connections to MARC, VRE, and Amtrak
  • Connections to buses to the airports
  • Which stations have parking
  • County, city and state boundaries
  • Major rivers and parks
  • Major monuments
  • National Airport
  • The Capital Beltway
Maps should be submitted as JPEG, PNG, or PDF files. If you submit a raster image, please use a resolution of at least 7800 pixels in the shortest direction and 8700 in the longest, which will allow printing it at the size of the current maps hung in the railcars.

Send your submissions to by April 30, 2011. We will post all qualifying maps in early May. A jury (in formation) will pick their favorite map, and readers will vote on a reader's choice as well.

Good luck!

By entering this contest through your submission, you grant Greater Greater Washington and any contest partners a nonexclusive, perpetual, royalty-free license to use, distribute, display, and derive works from your image on the Web, in print, or on any other medium. In other words, you say it's okay for us to post the maps on the blog, print them on posters to show off, put them places for people to see so they can vote for them, and make other uses that come up.
Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 


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The Beltway should come off. It was shown on the original map, before Metro was built, as a major landmark in an auto-oriented city. Now the Metro is how people orient themselves in Washington, and showing the Beltway is an anachronism.

by Ben Ross on Mar 14, 2011 1:08 pm • linkreport

I think you have the red line services off. Unless they're changing it, it's:

Shady Grove - Glenmont (off-peak only)
Grosvenor - Glenmont (peak only)
Shady Grove - Silver Spring (peak only)

by Tim on Mar 14, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

What about the Purple Line? I know that's still a ways off, but could that be included?

by Dave Murphy on Mar 14, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

No. The Red line patterns are correct as they stand today.

The base service pattern for the Red Line is service from Glenmont to Shady Grove (the full line) and service from Silver Spring to Grosvenor.

Off-peak, Maryland pays WMATA to operate the Silver Spring - Grosvenor trains all the way to Shady Grove.

Red short-turns during peak are currently denoted on the Metro map with a call-out box informing riders that every other train terminates at Grosvenor between 7:00 & 9:30 a.m. and between 4:00 & 6:30 p.m.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 14, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

I wonder how much Metro is paying this guy to "update" a simplistic map that a bunch of people here will do in a couple of hours just as nicely and effectively with some free shareware they downloaded? I bet someone like Lance gets a couple hundred grand to do it, and by do it I mean have one of his staff do it and he sign it.

Which begs a better question...are you telling me in the entire 10,000 employee WMATA organization, there isn't one marketing or graphics specialist that could update the map on an ongoing basis as needed?

by freely on Mar 14, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

What free programs are out there to create a map like this?

by carlos the dwarf on Mar 14, 2011 1:50 pm • linkreport


You're asking if Metro has any qualified graphic artists or people involved with marketing? Have you seen the stuff Metro slaps up? Their YouTube "ads"? The fact that their website name is a url that maybe 2 people are aware of? "WMATA...what is that?"

Metro is aware they don't have any competition. Why waste the money on people to sell you on something you don't really have a choice on in using?

by Michael on Mar 14, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

@Carlos: Try Inkscape

by Michael Perkins on Mar 14, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

Don't forget the Farragut virtual tunnel!

by Shipsa01 on Mar 14, 2011 1:57 pm • linkreport

carlos the dwarf: Some people use Inkscape to make maps.

Dave Murphy: The rules say you can include whatever you want on the map. The Purple Line is still pretty far from being done, so personally I think it might be a little too speculative, but anyone can certainly include it.

Circulators, major bus routes, streetcars, etc. are also fair game to include.

by David Alpert on Mar 14, 2011 1:57 pm • linkreport

The Farragut virtual tunnel is one of the requirements. It's referred to as an "out-of-system" transfer in the post.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 14, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport


true WMATA could save money by putting a map redesign out for a "contest" or for spec work, but i'll speak for the design community here by saying that spec work is not often in the best interest of the client, or by extension in this case, the riding public. also "this guy" lance wyman is a pretty well-respected designer that has created a ton of really great wayfinding work, among other things.

to put it another way, while i can dig some holes and put some plants in them, i'd never come to your house and landscape your yard, because it's not what i've been trained to do. there is both an art and a science to these things and while the GGW contest is fun and will undoubtedly produce some really nice, thought-provoking, gee-that's-better work, don't completely write off the importance and benefit of a trained professional getting paid for their craft.

by Matt on Mar 14, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

I wonder how much the final map will resemble this one, which appeared on years ago:

by JJ on Mar 14, 2011 2:11 pm • linkreport

@ Matt,

By your own example, the landscaping has already been done. It was done 35 years ago. The only thing being done now is standard maintenance watering.

I am not saying this should be put out to spec, or competition. Why reinvent the wheel? The design is already done, this is simple map maintenance. All that needs to be tweaked are some station names and adding a silver line out the Orange line.

I've seen a variety of examples of revised emtro maps posted here. They were all right on the money and likely took the people a couple hours with some free software, and they were building it from scratch!

I just find it incredibly shocking that metro doesn't have one person on staff that could do the same.

But whatever, we all know Metro is rolling in the money so why should we try to save a few hundred grand?

by freely on Mar 14, 2011 2:25 pm • linkreport


No, this is not simple maintenance. This is you having to re-plant half your yard because it was torn up from installing new utilities or something.

The design is not already done. The Silver Line will add 23 miles of track and 11 new stations. This isn't like re-naming a station, this is the first fundamental changing of the system since the original map was created.

Remember, the original map was designed as a whole, and only changed slightly as new sections of the system opened. This is an entirely different situation and will require a new map.

by Alex B. on Mar 14, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

I hope the revised maps de-emphasize the Potomac, the Beltway, and the national parkland. They're useful waymarkers but much too prominent on the current map.

by Gavin on Mar 14, 2011 2:39 pm • linkreport

I think those landmarks ought to be included for the spatially challenged who may not be able to orient themselves otherwise.

by William on Mar 14, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

My two cents: Pay attention to the readability of the station names. Font is extremely important. Remember this is a map, that people will use to find places on.

by Jasper on Mar 14, 2011 3:55 pm • linkreport


The current map is hardly simplistic. It's iconic, timeless, and a classic example of great design. People know it for a reason. It is instantly recognizable and extremely readable. Scale was sacrificed to achieve this, but it was worth it, imo. I'm glad they retained the original designer, but agree they could save their money and just keep the original map.

But calling it simplistic is just wrong.

by Marc on Mar 14, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport


How can you keep the original map while adding the Silver line - not just the new stations, but the continuing service through DC all the way to Stadium-Armory?

The answer is that you can't. The addition of the Silver line demands a change to the map because the current map is incapable of handling this addition. That's no knock on the current map, just a reality of a growing system.

by Alex B. on Mar 14, 2011 4:34 pm • linkreport

The current map is indeed iconic, timeless, and classic great design. Suggesting that just extending a line for the silver line would be simple or cheap is a common example of misunderstanding what designers (in this case, graphic designers) do. The most clear and easily understood examples of design are often the most difficult to achieve, and are rarely accomplished by a layperson. I'm not saying it isn't possible, but it is rare.

Maintaining a high level of iconic and readable designs, especially in something so crucial as the station map, is important for WMATA, and worth spending money to achieve. Metro has a lot of problems, but suggesting we just let any untrained member of WMATA's staff create what is one of the most crucial elements of both use and branding is shortsighted. WMATA has to be able to deal with many priorities, not just bag checks and escalator outages. It's not that those and other maintenance and safety issues are not important, it's that they aren't the only things that are important.

by Bryant Turnage on Mar 14, 2011 4:45 pm • linkreport

@ Bryant,

I've seen a few posted here on GGW by various people. All of them better as far as I am concerned, than metro's own map.

Here is a link to a fantasy map Alpert did.

And I think you are "hamming it up" a bit with the waxing poetic. You sounded like the sales pitch I am sure Lances people gave to metro when they were justifying their six figure bill. Timeless? Iconic? It isn't a $25,000 dollar timepiece, its a rail map that gets frequently updated and changed. It has a station, a name and color...all connected together. People don't stand on the platform admiring the "timelessness" of it. They find their "dot" and the "dot" they need. We aren't plowing new ground here.

If a handful of GGW readers have bettered the original in their spare time with free software, then it really isn't that complicated is it?

by freely on Mar 14, 2011 5:04 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know where to get some very detailed maps of the DC, Northern VA and Central MD Region.

Also can you include Lightrail (Purple Line) and the Streetcar lines.

by kk on Mar 14, 2011 5:20 pm • linkreport

@JJ, one flaw in the draft map on flicker is it looks like the Silver Line stations at Rt. 28 and beyond are right next to the Potomac. To make room for the Silver Line, the Orange line should be angled downward, maybe 20-30 degrees west of East Falls Church, which better maps the I-66 path anyway. The 3 orange line stations west of East Falls Church could be stretched out to also better reflect the spacing between the stations also with the addition of the Silver Line.

With the Silver Line extending so far west, it will be a challenge to fit it in without distorting the squarish shape of the current map. I would leave the city boundaries, the parks, and the major landmark symbols on the new map. The Beltway is useful, but it has to be traded off against cluttering the map. Another change could be to make Union Station more prominent, even if it is not a transfer station. Adding VRE and MARC line tracings is another possibility, but that may clutter the map.

by AlanF on Mar 14, 2011 5:26 pm • linkreport

@freely: The point of a great piece of design is that people don't think about how well it's designed. It works well, and people use it effortlessly. Don't think of a gaudy gold watch; think of the paper clip.

The current map has remained essentially unchanged for over thirty years, as noted in this piece. It appears, or is referenced, in local advertising campaigns, t-shirts, shower curtains, and more. If that isn't iconic, I don't know what is.

The current map has been used since 1976. With some expected modifications, the new version will probably be used for at least a decade or two. It certainly shouldn't be relegated to some low-level Metro employee who'll crank it out on MS Paint in between filling out forms and answering phones. It's important that they get this right.

by Bryant Turnage on Mar 14, 2011 6:05 pm • linkreport

When I first read this post during my lunch break, I thought to myself, "Hey! This is a great idea! Who wouldn't like a harmless art contest, and maybe it will produce a really cool map?"

But some commenters are pretty negative! Not everyone likes the current map. Not everyone will like the redesigned map, whatever it looks like. But...come on! Lighten up a bit and see what maps people are willing to make free!

by WRD on Mar 14, 2011 6:12 pm • linkreport


i don't think anyone is knocking the ggw contest -- i'm certainly not. i think it's great. i think the reactions are to the suggestion (again, not by ggw) that a contest such as this one should or can substitute for the work of a trained, professional map/graphic designer as far as the official map is concerned.

by Matt on Mar 14, 2011 6:21 pm • linkreport

Cartography. The word you're all looking for is "cartography". Not "graphic design". It's a map, not a Pepsi ad.

by mappo on Mar 14, 2011 6:47 pm • linkreport

Is this cartography? The "map" is really more of a diagram: it's more interested in wayfinding from one station to another than representation of the geography. The classic Tube map was designed by an electrical engineer, after all.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 14, 2011 9:29 pm • linkreport

Funny that you would announce this contest.

I started composing a map on Saturday 03 12 2001 based on the map on page 31 of the TAG Meeting #6 Presentation (3.45 MB PDF file) along with some personal modifications.

by Sand Box John on Mar 14, 2011 10:22 pm • linkreport

I don't know how old the Metro map is but when I was a child growing up in Sydney, Australia I used to catch the train to go to school. The rail map in Sydney is exactly the same design as the DC Metro map.

Its not that unique, and should money be spent at this time when money is so tight in DC?

by Chris on Mar 14, 2011 10:41 pm • linkreport

A new and improved map has already been done...

There are a lot of features on this I appreciate... maybe they should add Capitol Bikeshare & Zipcar (within a certain distance of a station) and make it a fully multi-modal map.

by Brian on Mar 14, 2011 11:00 pm • linkreport

Cartogrpahy implies scale.

by TGEoA on Mar 14, 2011 11:08 pm • linkreport


Agreed this is the best map I have ever seen of the area, and I would echo Brian's comments that Capitol Bike Share and Zipcar should be added. But the fact it's slick, uses standard symbols, easy to follow, and takes most of the original design elemts from the original to keep the "theme" going.

It's winning. Serisiouly.

by Lou Paris on Mar 15, 2011 7:58 am • linkreport

Side note. I wonder what it would take to have Metro consider designs from more than one applicant. Lance Wyman made a great map, but there are substanial improvments now, and Senex Prime (Cameron Booth) design deserves public input.

Facebook group page? Signatures by Metro stops? Petitions to Sales? The public should start taking greater interesting in everything Metro does, and this map seriosuly deserves to be put front and center.

by Lou Paris on Mar 15, 2011 8:06 am • linkreport

@Sand Box John:
I hope you'll submit your map for our contest! We'd love to see your work.

Yes. Cameron Booth did a great job with his revised Metro map. In fact, we featured it here on Greater Greater Washington, and it resulted in a great conversation. I hope Cameron will submit his as well.

Sydney's map is quite nice. It has good legibility. But it is actually quite different from Washington's map. It has much more in common with the maps of London and Paris than it does with Washington. If you think they're the same merely because they're diagrammatic, then almost every single subway system map in the world is the "same". With the notable exception of New York's.

Perhaps you missed the relevant paragraphs in the original post, but it is not possible for Metro to keep the same exact map it has had since 1976 for 2 reasons, either one of which would require a new design.

  1. Starting in 2012, services from different lines will start running on different lines. Somehow, Metro has to indicate that trains starting on the western end of the Orange Line will end up on the eastern Blue. And trains on the southern Blue will end up on the northern Green.
  2. The Silver Line will be opening its first phase in 2014. That will add a new line through downtown, and at the current line weight on the map, it literally won't fit. So something is going to have to change.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 15, 2011 8:46 am • linkreport

@Matt Johnson
I am now working on a map based on the criteria set by David for the contest.

I will continue working on the map based on the TAG Meeting Presentation.

Both will be based on the Lance Wyman map.

by Sand Box John on Mar 15, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

I'll take up Greater Greater Washington's challenge. It would be great to flex my own design skills. Or cartographic skills. Whatever. Really, the question of whether it's a map or a diagram is inconsequential. I actually posed that question to a friend who is a cartographer himself. He said he would consider it a map, but if there's a continuum between being a map and being a diagram, it was clear he didn't consider it to be at the "map-most" end of that continuum.

But I won't be submitting my map. I'm unwilling to grant GGW such a license.

by Dustin on Mar 15, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

Woke up this morning to a few hundred new hits to my revised DC diagram on Flickr... all coming from here, so I thought I'd see what's up! Brian and Lou, thanks for your kind words!

Matt, I will certainly endeavor to get an entry in, although some of the new requirements in the brief will necessitate a rethink. Maybe my entry will look quite different to what I've already done: we'll see, I guess!

For those who think in terms of inches, not pixels, the size of the poster would be 29 inches along the long side and 26 inches along the short at 300dpi.

And yes, it's design, not cartography, as this is a rectilinear diagram, not a map.

Finally, for those of you thinking this is easy and that anyone can do it: get real. I'm a graphic designer with over 17 years of experience and a huge interest in transit diagrams and this is still not simple. So many disparate elements fighting for attention and clarity and you have to sort it out. Is it legible? Is it readable from a distance? How do color-blind people use the map? Is the iconography aiding the understandability of the diagram or affecting it? Are these stations close enough together? How the heck do I fit this stupid compound station name on this map anyway?? (I'm looking at you, U Street!)

by Cameron Booth on Mar 15, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

While we're at it, can we please rename all of these stations with dashes and slashes and way too many letters?

by Stuart on Mar 15, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

@Neil F. - its not for finding your way from one station to another station. its for finding your way from one station within a neighborhood to another station within a neighborhood. I like the iconic current metro map but it still has this weakness - my destination is NOT the station; its something nearby the station. I need information about the surroundings in which the station sits. The current map doesn't provide that very well. Its only available on platform maps once you've already gotten off the train.

Even though I've lived here 20 years and use the mtero I still have to look up google maps sometimes to see what station is closest to my destination, and to get information about the greography outside the station so I'm oriented once I get there. The destination is never the station. Its someplace outside the station.

by Tina on Mar 15, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

Dustin: Sorry the license situation is too much of an obstacle for you. Basically, we have to ask for that or else essentially we wouldn't be able to post the maps online, print them out to put on posterboards if we organize an awards event, etc.

We're not going to make money off them. We don't make money off anything and don't even have ads. I tried to make what we were asking for as limited as possible, but I also wanted to be covering the legal issues in an environment where copyright law is out of control.

by David Alpert on Mar 15, 2011 11:41 am • linkreport

For those naysayers who believe this is a simple task and WMATA shouldn't bother paying a professional to to the work, I recommend you read this:

Artemy Lebedev (and his staff!) took nearly four years to redesign the Moscow Metro diagram. Granted, the system is a bit more complex that WMATA's but Lebedev's walkthrough of the process is enlightening for anyone interested in transit diagram design.

by Erik Weber on Mar 15, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

Allow me to take this opportunity to enthusiastically recommend Mark Ovenden's book Transit Maps of the World.

by Herschel on Mar 15, 2011 2:40 pm • linkreport

@ Erik Weber: For those naysayers who believe this is a simplehard task and WMATA shouldn't bother paying a professional to to the work, I recommend you read this learn what crowd sourcing is, and what amazing results have been produced by it.

by Jasper on Mar 15, 2011 3:59 pm • linkreport


its not for finding your way from one station to another station.

Actually, that's exactly what this map is for.


Crowdsourcing is great, but it will take a lot more than just the crowd to work out all the kinks required of a professional design. Cameron hinted at some of those elements in his post above.

Crowdsourcing's value is in capturing the creative elements of the crowd, but that's not going to end Metro's need to hire the final task out to professionals.

by Alex B. on Mar 15, 2011 4:12 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper: Don't even go there. Please.

500 people enter a "design contest" and one wins some "exposure" and a token amount of money? Which effectively means all the other designers don't get paid for their time, effort and creative expertise. It's spec work and needs to be stamped out as much as possible, not encouraged.

No other industry expects people to produce finished work for free, so why should design be any different? It's like asking all the restaurants in town to cook you a meal and you'll pay for the one that you think tastes the best.

Learn more here:

by Cameron Booth on Mar 15, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

@Cameron Booth--

Designers are free to not participate.

by WRD on Mar 15, 2011 4:31 pm • linkreport


Again, I don't think anyone is criticizing the GGW contest. Rather people (myself included) are taking issue with the suggestion that a similar contest would be a suitable substitute for WMATA hiring a professional to update the OFFICIAL map.

by Matt on Mar 15, 2011 4:37 pm • linkreport

@ WRD: This is a one-off contest for fun and is clearly defined as such. It is *not* the same as spec work. Spec work would be WMATA opening up the *actual* design of their new diagram to a design contest site or similar, for example. However, this is not the forum for further discussion - I apologize for hijacking the comments thread with my thoughts.

by Cameron Booth on Mar 15, 2011 4:37 pm • linkreport

Right. In fact, I just spoke to WMATA folks, and they think this is a great idea, but want to make sure everyone knows that the purpose isn't to come up with maps for them to use instead of whatever Lance Wyman comes up with. This is just for fun.

Lance might get some ideas from these, and we hope maybe the contest will bring up some interesting concepts he could work in, but Lance is getting paid professional graphic designer money to do this work and that's appropriate.

by David Alpert on Mar 15, 2011 4:44 pm • linkreport

I respectfully disagree. If WMATA can get the job done at a lower cost by crowd-sourcing, they should do it. They shouldn't be dishonest, of course. Metro should be permitted to say to the Public: "Submit map ideas to us and we'll evaluate, merge, and potentially use the ideas."

If it doesn't produce a good product, then they can always hire a professional.

by WRD on Mar 15, 2011 5:42 pm • linkreport

@WRD et. al.:

The Metro map is more than just a map (or a diagram) it's part of Metro's brand. No corporate entity would ever trust it's brand to crowdsourcing- ever! They might put some details up to a vote (i.e. M&M colors or CaBi names), but they only trust their brand to highly paid professionals.

I would also not be surprised if there's some group like the Commission of Fine Arts that has some veto power over WMATA's decisions RE metro branding.

Besides, if WMATA's rules are anything like those guiding the federal government, they are not allowed to accept volunteer work under any circumstances. As much as we might like the idea of free government workers, they are, in fact, illegal. (In fact, for the feds I believe that working for free garners a $5000 fine and some light jail time!) I'm not sure of the exact reason for the ban on volunteer work, but it may limit some kinds of nepotism, bid-rigging... peonage... or something, I don't know.

by Steven on Mar 15, 2011 6:26 pm • linkreport

WRD: I'm glad the world doesn't work the way you seem to want it to. You really think that "crowd-sourcing" should take the bread out of designers' children's mouths? Really?

by Herschel on Mar 15, 2011 11:41 pm • linkreport

Been done.

by Jack Love on Mar 16, 2011 12:30 pm • linkreport


"Unripe Soggy Concrete" is quite apt. Almost as much as "Golfer Nest."

by David Alpert on Mar 16, 2011 12:35 pm • linkreport

@ Steven -- you are WAY over stating the issue of the federal government using volunteers. There are hordes of volunteer interns and people volunteering in parks and museums. What you are talking about refers to anti-deficiency act violations during a government shut down.

by Kate on Mar 16, 2011 12:44 pm • linkreport


Yes. If WMATA is putting bread into the mouths of designers' children, it should stop immediately! WMATA is not a charity.

I think the argument is kind of rediculous. Should the government pay more for a service than it has to? When you think about that argument, why doesn't it apply to teacher's pensions or health care? Hell, what about WMATA's own retirement benefits issue. Should we rule out cuts to those programs because they benefit a special interest? I think not.

I am arguing the government should adopt the most cost-efficient method of completing their work.


Point taken about private companies. But they're private companies and depend on their brand much more than Metro does. People take (or don't take) the subway based on its performance, not on its logo. Plus, Metro externalizes the costs, as all government agencies do to one extent or another, and has a correspondingly greater duty to be efficient.

by WRD on Mar 16, 2011 1:58 pm • linkreport

In architecture, open competitions have a reputation for giving small firms exposure but not necessarily creating the best work. What you get are big, flashy one-liners. The Bibliotheque National de France, Beijing National Stadium, and the World War II Memorial are open competition winners, for example.

The reality is that it produces a lot of flashy designs that might be expensive and might be poorly detailed, but the client generally feels stuck with. Usability is often underdeveloped and human-scale issues are ignored to get the point that was in the original renderings across.

Even if you do crowdsource something, you need someone skilled to interpret the recommendations and make sense of them. These aren't fungible, like data or photos. Better value is not guaranteed.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 16, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

Couple of questions:

1. Does it have to fit on a piece of paper? (what is the max size)

2. Can we incorporate public domain or attribution required data sources like OpenStreetMap or Wikipedia?

by Sunny on Mar 16, 2011 4:51 pm • linkreport

For ease of usage by passengers...keep the map the same. Add the Gold line which goes from Franconia Sp - Greenbelt and Pink line which goes from West Falls Church to Largo (with notes that both of these lines are for peak hours only). Add the Silver line from Rte 772 to Stadium Armory. Add a white connector between Farragut West and Farragut North that implies the walkway - like what exists in the Paris metro map - . Add the Purple line for the connections in Maryland (Im still not clear on those).

Bottom line is keep it in the same style as we arleady have but add the separately designated colored lines - that will be the simplest for the riders. They will also need to pay attention because this now means that multiple colored trains will come on the same tracks during peak hours especially - so the trains will have to have very clear signage and perhaps more WMATA workers to help get people on the right trains. BUT DONT CHANGE THE STYLE OF THE MAP.

Other designations such as parking, etc., can stay the is very effective as is.

by Larry on Mar 17, 2011 6:34 am • linkreport


You're only focusing on the cost side of cost-effectiveness. As Neil and Cameron note, you'd likely still have to hire a professional anyway - ergo, you don't realize the cost savings and you don't get a product that's as effective as it could be.

by Alex B. on Mar 17, 2011 8:41 am • linkreport

The one thing that definitely needs to change on maps and in stations is the absurd overnaming of stations.
Two prime examples: U St/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo and New York Ave/Florida Ave/Gallaudet University. If people are looking for a particular point of interest I think there are other ways for them to find it without it needing to be written into a station name. This has gotten out of control.

by Jonathan on Mar 17, 2011 10:53 am • linkreport

If "Reagan" is to remain on the new map for the station of Washington National Airport, then I think "Robert Kennedy" or a similar reference must be used on the new map for Stadium-Armory, as the full name of the Stadium I believe is the Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

by Cal Kris on Mar 17, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

I second Herschel's recommedation of the Transit Maps book by Mark Ovenden. It shows how almost all metro maps worldwide descend from the London map.

The major problem with our map is indeed the long names. This reflect the over-politicization of this city, where no group allows itself to be outdone by another. But it makes it awfully hard to design a concise, useful map.

by JLowe on Mar 17, 2011 10:52 pm • linkreport

Can someone explain the parameters around these two?

Grosvenor ⇔ Silver Spring
Shady Grove ⇔ Silver Spring (off-peak only)

The official WMATA map only shows a note about every other outbound, during certain hours, terminating at Grosvenor (in addition to showing the full Shady Grove <=> Glenmont, of course).


by Roger on Mar 22, 2011 3:55 pm • linkreport

My entry is in! Hope to see many more.

by Cameron Booth on Apr 2, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

At some point WMATA is going to run out of colors. If the Silver Line and Purple Line are already spoken for, then what color will be used to denote the new Anacostia Streetcars when those are built? Brown?

(Interestingly, the L.A. transit agency went through a big debate about colors recently with several major expansions of their system coming online. The feeling there was that you can't be racially insensitive by, say, having the "Brown Line" serving African-American or Hispanic areas and you certainly can't have the "Yellow Line" to Chinatown. I kind of thought that was a load of crap. The Chicago Transit Authority has had a Brown Line for years. I have no idea what type of neighborhoods that line serves but as far as I know there's never been anyone who felt that Brown is anything more than a random color which happens to be easily distinguishable from other colors.)

I would also suggest designers look to the Philadelphia transit map for inspiration on how to show commuter rail lines and how to distinguish between subway lines vs. light rail lines.

My two cents is that it might make sense to show CaBi stations on the map. I wouldn't show ZipCar because that's a private, for-profit company and while right now they're a monopoly they might not stay that way forever.

I also like how some systems (Lisbon Portugal, San Diego) use symbols as well as colors to "brand" their lines. So in San Diego their blue line has an ocean-wave symbol, the orange line has a sunburst, and the green line has a palm tree. Might be an interesting secondary contest to see how you "brand" DC's various lines.

by Marcus Hook on May 2, 2011 9:23 am • linkreport

as a college student from New York City, I would really love for there to at least be an option that has the map geographically accurate (within reason). I voted for such a map in the contest, but it lacked the most important feature ,an accurate underlay of DC beneath it

by Shane on Dec 8, 2011 5:34 pm • linkreport

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