Posts about Station Names
Metro is debuting its "Rush Plus" service today. In honor of this, the latest step in Metro's 34-year growth and evolution, here is an updated version of our popular animation showing the history of Metrorail service.
The rush hour service changes mean that riders headed east of Stadium-Armory or south of King Street (now King St-Old Town) will have to check the destination signs on their trains. Yellow Line and Blue Line riders may want to adjust their travel patterns.
The even more confusing service: Trains changing color
This isn't the most Metro has ever asked of riders, however. From November 20, 1978 to November 30, 1979, and then again from November 22, 1980 to April 29, 1983, some Blue and Orange trains used one color going in one direction, then switched colors heading back. If you lived in Clarendon in 1981, you would board a Blue Line train headed to DC and then catch an Orange Line train to get home.
Metro had to do this in 1978-1979 because trains at the time used physical rollsigns with text printed on a colored background. The New Carrollton sign had an orange background, while the National Airport destination sign used blue. Therefore, Metro had to have the trains switch colors for each direction.
Then, in the early 1980s, they started doing this again after the segment to Addison Road opened. At the time, with the Yellow Line not yet built, the demand for service on the Rosslyn to National Airport segment (now Blue) better matched the Stadium-Armory to New Carrollton segment (now Orange), and the demand on Rosslyn to Ballston (now Orange) lined up better with Stadium-Armory to Addison Road (now Blue).
Therefore, Metro ran trains from National Airport to New Carrollton and Ballston to Addison Road. But since the rollsigns didn't allow using the same color for each end of those services, the trains had to switch colors in each direction.
If Metro had to try something like this today for some reason, how do you think people would react?
The other rush-only service: Green Line Commuter Shortcut
This is also not the first time Metro has had rush hour only service. From December 11, 1993 to September 18, 1999, the Green Line had 2 unconnected segments, one from Greenbelt to Fort Totten and the other from U Street to Anacostia.
On January 27, 1997, Metro started using a single-track switch at Fort Totten to send rush hour Green Line trains from Greenbelt onto the Red Line. They ran on the Red Line tracks to Farragut North, where there is a pocket track to turn around. This "Green Line Commuter Shortcut" continued until the Green Line opened through Columbia Heights and Petworth, connecting the two sections permanently.
Metro never included this on its maps except for a green box explaining the service. Therefore, while today is not the first time Metro has run a rush hour-only service pattern, it's the first time the maps have displayed it, now using a dashed line.Metro's maps did show planned and under construction segments until 2004, but these maps do not. I've included the Silver Line under construction, however.
The dates of station name changes come from Wikipedia's pages on individual stations and other online sources. To keep the number of maps manageable, and because many stations' exact renaming dates are not available, I've grouped station renamings in with the next major service change, even when that takes place years later; for example, Metro renamed Ballston to Ballston-MU in 1995, but the next map, showing the Green Line Commuter Shortcut, depicts the system in 1997.
Metro's online survey about station names for the new Silver Line to Dulles and Reston will be ending on March 21. Have you filled it out?
This is your chance to push for station names that create a sense of place and tie in to the region's history and geography, rather than a boring, long, hyphenated string of road names.
Here are my picks, versus the official recommendations from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:
|My pick||Fairfax Board pick|
|Tysons Corner||Tysons I&II|
|Spring Hill||Tysons-Spring Hill Road|
|Reston||Reston Town Center|
These names are short, can be used in the names of developments or buildings in the area, and will create a memorable name for the area around the station.
What did you pick?
Arlington County is seeking your input in naming stations on the new Crystal City/Potomac Yard (CCPY) Transitway, the first phase of which will provide Bus Rapid Transit service over part of a 5-mile corridor between the Pentagon in Arlington and Braddock Road Metro Station in Alexandria.
Arlington County has been moving aggressively with the project and is finalizing the designs for the portion that will run from the Crystal City Metro station to Four Mile Run, which separates Arlington from the City of Alexandria. As part of the design, the County has identified eight station stops and is seeking input from the community on station names.
Station names carry a particular significance as many of the bus rapid transit stations will become the core of a future light rail line, if current longer term planning carries through.
With few exceptions, the survey's choices pit effective wayfinding against more colorful, albeit sometimes less useful, station names. For most stations, it presents a fairly descriptive choice, such as "27th and Crystal" and a more creative option like "Potomac Yard Gateway." The survey also asks whether to name the key transfer station at the Crystal City Metro station "Metro Gateway" or "Crystal City Metro."
As for Alexandria's portion, the City received an $8.5 million design/build grant for the CCPY Transitway. It is anticipated that a design/build firm will be selected and under contract later this month.
The project will begin this fall with construction to be completed in Winter 2013. It is anticipated that a the bulk of Alexandria's portion will run along a dedicated center lane on Highway 1.
The survey is short and simple. If you think you might be likely to use the CCPY Transitway, you should make sure your voice is heard. Please share your preferences (or any suggestions for alternatives) in the comments.
This morning, WMATA's Customer Service and Operations Committee voted on a set of revised station names for several stops. The full WMATA Board voted to approve the recommendations this afternoon.
With the service changes to the Blue, Yellow, and Orange lines coming next year, signs have to be replaced anyway. Metro hopes to save time and money by renaming stations at once instead of making changes individually.
Additionally, Metro is moving to a new primary/secondary station naming system. This idea was one that came out of the Metro map contest we held earlier this year. Only station names longer than the 19-character policy maximum will get subtitles, minus a few grandfathered entries (see below).
The committee recommended the following station name changes:
- King St-Old Town
- Navy Yard-Ballpark
- NoMa-Gallaudet UNew York Ave
- Waterfront (deleting the now-closed "SEU" from the name)
For now, several stations are keeping their current names:
- Forest Glen (no Holy Cross Hospital, but with an H logo denoting a hospital)
- Franconia-Springfield (exempt from character limit)
- Georgia Ave-Petworth (exempt from character limit)
- Grosvenor-Strathmore (exempt from character limit)
- Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (no change)
- Smithsonian (no National Mall)
Many members of the Gallaudet community spoke at the public comment session in favor of keeping their university in the primary name. Several others spoke for Holy Cross and the Mall.
David Alpert testified in favor of shorter names and using subtitles for all universities and other points of interest. He also noted that while Holy Cross offficials and neighbors said putting the hospital's name on the station would encourage more patients to take transit, the hospital's own directions webpage doesn't mention Metro.
Additional changes include adding the universal "H" logo to the system map to show hospitals near Foggy Bottom, Forest Glen, and Medical Center.
If you listened to the WMATA Board discuss station names this morning, you could be forgiven if you concluded the board is made up of representatives from local universities, hospitals, and sports teams, and that those institutions, rather than riders and residents, pay for Metro.
That's because where institutions want to be on Metro station names, most members from those jurisdictions argued for adding them on, even when such an addition would violate the policy the board just adopted a few months ago. Many also argued for adding more content to the primary names, rather than subtitles.
The phrase "what's best for riders," sadly, came out of the mouths of very few members. Most notably, federal members Mort Downey and Marcel Acosta, and Fairfax member Jeff McKay (who is most in danger of losing his seat when Bob McDonnell's appointee Jim Dyke joins the board), were the ones who did emphasize what's best for riders.
What riders want is shorter names. Assistant General Manager for Communications Barbara Richardson said, "Our customers want one name. They want one, common name. They want these to be short."
Few people refer to "West Falls Church Vee Tea You Vee Eh" or "Van Ness You Dee See." Instead, they say they're going to West Falls Church or Van Ness. With a few exceptions like "Franconia-Springfield" and "Stadium-Armory," which really are truly compound names, other station names have a main portion, like "U Street" or "Grosvenor," and then sometimes additional points of interest.
Metro staff got that from their focus groups, and our surveys backed it up. People told Metro that long station names was their biggest complaint about the map. It's annoying and confusing for riders.
Richardson presented the staff recommendations after playing an amusing song, "The Metro Song." It parodies Johnny Cash's "I've been everywhere" to name 46 of the stations in the Metro system:
The staff suggest:
- Navy Yard Ballpark
- New York Ave Florida Ave-Gallaudet U
- Smithsonian (no National Mall)
- Waterfront (no Arena Stage)
- Forest Glen (no Holy Cross Hospital, but with an H logo denoting a hospital)
- King Street Old Town
Porter lamented that the county hadn't pushed for the change earlier, since it would have qualified under the previous policy, and suggested the board let Montgomery "grandfather" in the name. However, Fairfax's Jeff McKay pointed out that the reason they're changing the policy is because there have been problems with overly long station names in the past.
Porter noted that the hospital runs a shuttle to the station and there is Ride On service to the station. But in WMATA's focus groups, many members expressed a feeling that anything attached to a station name ought to be within a short walk, not a bus or car ride away.
DC Councilmember Muriel Bowser also wanted to grandfather a non-subtitle, Georgia Ave-Petworth. On this one, there's some good argument either way. I've heard many people call this "Georgia Ave Petworth" or "Georgia Petworth." Several commenters recommended actually making it Petworth, since Georgia Avenue is very long and Forest Glen, Wheaton, and Glenmont are also on Georgia Avenue.
Or, perhaps it could follow the pattern WMATA recommends for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and make the station Georgia Ave Petworth?
Bowser also took the position held by Gallaudet management and students for keeping that university in the primary name instead of a subtitle, endorsing NoMa-Gallaudet U New York Avenue. She pointed out that no other DC university is slated to become part of a subtitle. We've advocated instead for actually putting all universities and other points of interest in subtitles, and 83% of you agreed.
There seemed to be some interest on the board for this option. Mary Hynes of Arlington noted that they have many universities around their Metro stations, and that perhaps it's not feasible to expect to put all universities in primary names or even station names in general. McKay recommended holding off on any change concerning Gallaudet until this broader question is resolved.
Artis Hampshire-Cowen, though, seemed to be wearing her hat as an executive for Howard University rather than necessarily representing riders of Prince George's County. She argued against moving universities into subtitles, using Howard as a specific example.
Bowser also asked for the ballpark to be part of a main station name, Navy Yard-Ballpark, instead of the staff-recommended Navy Yard Ballpark.
The curly W seems completely dead, though that may be a very recent change. Last week, I'd heard that the Nationals only wanted to pay if the station could be named Navy Yard-, not just for "Ballpark." Today, however, DDOT told WMATA that DC would pay for any change, and Bowser told the board that DC expects the Nationals would cover those costs.
Under WMATA's policy, the jurisdiction has to pay for the station name itself. Another entity can reimburse the jurisdiction, but it has to guarantee the funding to WMATA. WMATA won't enter into a side agreement with a separate organization to collect the funds directly.
McKay asked what would happen if the ballpark gets a corporate name at some point. Would they want to, and would Metro feel any pressure to, rename the station? Members agreed that the staff should further flesh out the no corporate naming policy.
Alexandria mayor Bill Euille pushed for King Street-Old Town, their original request, instead of King Street Old Town, the staff recommendation (and one you overwhelmingly supported).
Marcel Acosta stood up for holding to the policy that the board had just adopted. He noted that the shorter names make things easier for customers, and "we need to temper" the impulse to accommodate local organization requests.
Alvin Nichols, alternate for Prince George's, asked about a request by Mount Rainier to add their name to West Hyattsville. However, Maryland has not officially requested this change, so it's not on the table at this time.
The board adjourned their discussion until next Thursday, November 3, where they will hold a public comment session followed immediately by a full board meeting to vote on changes. It's clear that some members are not paying much heed to rider concerns, or at least the comments of those who participated in the focus groups or filled out our survey (while others very much are).
Maybe if riders come to the public comment session, it will help those members start thinking about the interests of the riders instead of the interests of their universities, hospitals and sports teams.
749 people voted in our poll on station names. What did you conclude?
In short: Metro should use subtitles for long station names, including Grosvenor, and also short station names with universities in the name. Forest Glen and Waterfront shouldn't gain anything else, while Navy Yard should add Ballpark as a subtitle and King Street add Old Town.
New York Avenue versus NoMa had no clear consensus, and you were split 50-50 on whether Smithsonian should get a subtitle added for the National Mall.
Subtitles had strong support across the board. WMATA staff are recommending subtitles for 12 long station names; 93% of respondents agreed. They left out Grosvenor, partly at the request of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, but 80% of respondents thought that name should also get a subtitle.
8 stations have shorter names including universities. Staff are not yet recommending subtitles for those, but 83% of respondents felt those stations should also use subtitles.
Station renaming proposals
Respondents overwhelmingly agreed with the WMATA staff recommendations on King Street, to add a subtitle, and Forest Glen, to leave the name alone.
|King Street-Old Town||155||21%|
Holy Cross Hospital
|Forest Glen-Holy Cross Hospital||41||6%|
There was also strong, but less unequivocal, support for the staff recommendations of leaving Waterfront with no subtitle and adding Ballpark as a subtitle on Navy Yard.
Respondents split almost exactly 50-50 on whether to add "The National Mall" as a subtitle on Smithsonian, or to leave the name as is. Staff recommended leaving the name; among other reasons, the Mall is near several stations, and Metro often tries to persuade riders to use those other stations during special events.
What about New York Avenue or NoMa? There was not a clear winner, but some useful statistics:
|New York Ave|
Florida Ave-Gallaudet U
|New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U||30||4%|
|New York Ave-NoMa|
|Total with NY Ave||465||64%|
|Total with NoMa||383||53%|
|Total with Gallaudet in subtitle||635||87%|
It might have been better to run this one as an instant runoff vote. The people who picked New York Ave-NoMa [Gallaudet U] clearly liked the New York Ave and NoMa names. But would they rather have just New York Ave and drop NoMa, or keep just NoMa? Is that a reasonable compromise (which is what DDOT thought) or not popular enough (which is what WMATA staff concluded)?
New York Ave seems somewhat more popular than NoMa, though not overwhelmingly so. For many respondents, apparently, the unfamiliarity of or unease with NoMa as a name edged out the fact that the station is really quite misnamed, being actually not so near New York Avenue.
The WMATA Board will discuss the issue today. It appears they would generally do well to accept the staff recommendations, except in one area: they should go farther in using subtitles, not just for the 12 names staff suggest but for all points of interest, like universities and performing arts centers.
It's also fairer this way. Gallaudet students are understandably unhappy their school is one of only 3 to get moved to a subtitle. Riders clearly prefer the subtitles over the alternative, but the board could at least treat all universities equally by moving them all to subtitles.
Gallaudet University students are mobilizing to oppose the idea of moving their university's name into a subtitle on the nearby Metro station. They're creating a petition in favor of "NoMa-Gallaudet U."
At lunchtime on Monday, students gathered on campus for a brief talk by student body government leaders and Fred Weiner, the Executive Director of Program Development for the university. Most students attending raised their hands when asked if they use the Metro station.
Speakers gave a brief history of Gallaudet's involvement with the station. Gallaudet has been in the neighborhood since before much of the neighborhood existed. Recently, the school has been working hard to reassert its connections to the surrounding community. One way to strengthen those connections is visibility. To that end, the leaders want to keep the university's name on the local Metro station as a primary element.
Weiner noted that the WMATA Board would be discussing station name changes on Thursday. The public will not be able to speak, but a public hearing will follow on October 27th.
In the meantime, the school will be setting up a petition online advocating for the name "NoMa/Gallaudet U." Weiner noted that "members of the DC Council," which likely means at least Ward 5 council member Harry Thomas, Jr., favor this name over DDOT's proposal, "New York Ave-NoMa" with a subtitle of "Gallaudet U."
The Gallaudet University community believes that theirs should not be the only university in the region to have its name used as merely a subtitle for a station, rather than a part of the primary heading. Actually, 2 other stations with universities on their names, West Falls Church-VT/UVA and Vienna/Fairfax-GMU, also are slated to receive subtitles. However, 8 other stations with universities will not.
David suggested using subtitles for all stations with points of interest, including universities. Interestingly, Weiner mentioned that the university was promised from the beginning that their name would always be part of the station name. While making it part of a subtitle would technically keep that promise, I believe it would not be in the spirit of such an agreement to relegate the school's name to a secondary role.
What do you think?
Update: The Program Development office at Gallaudet University sent this comment:
When the station was in the planning stages, I. King Jordan, president of Gallaudet at the time, was on the advisory board that supported establishing the station. He participated in the groundbreaking and was in attendance at the opening. Some of the WMATA meetings regarding the station were held at Gallaudet. At one such meeting, the chair of the board, Gladys Mack, committed that Gallaudet would be in the name of the station. Furthermore, advertisers have used the station to target the deaf community, knowing that it is heavily trafficked by Gallaudet students, staff and faculty.
On Thursday, the WMATA Board will review a revised Metro map and proposed name changes. The interim map shows the new "Orange and Yellow Line Service Increase" and the Silver Line under construction. Jurisdictions made formal requests to change the names of 6 stations; WMATA staff recommend accepting 2 of those.
For the map, based on survey results, WMATA staff and designer Lance Wyman decided to color the Dulles line Silver, use dashed yellow and orange lines at the ends to denote rush hour-only service, and add hours of operation to the map. Different symbols for short turn stations confused riders and are gone from this version.
The recommendation would add Old Town as a subtitle to King Street, and Ballpark to Navy Yard once DC commits funding. Further, they recommend changing Waterfront-SEU to just Waterfront, not adding Arena Stage as requested. Suggested changes to Smithsonian, New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U, and Forest Glen are also on the table, but staff are not endorsing those changes.
Instead of adding Holy Cross Hospital to Forest Glen, as Montgomery County requested, staff and Wyman devised a clever solution. Just as all stations with parking will have a P in a square next to their names, stations with hospitals will get an H in a square. That includes Forest Glen as well as Foggy Bottom, Shaw, and Medical Center.
The Board will also review the recommendation to use subtitles for 12 long station names. Staff dropped Grosvenor-Strathmore from their recommended list at the request of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett; the board could still use a subtitle for this or even all stations with points of interest like universities.
What do you think? Below are more details about all the proposed changes. As you read, you can click the radio buttons to indicate which suggestions you agree with. At the end, you can submit your recommendations to the WMATA Board.
Station renaming proposals
Metro stations can be renamed if a local jurisdiction requests a change, agrees to pay for the cost of changing signs, and the WMATA Board approves the change.
The station naming policy, adopted earlier this year, says that station names should:
- Convey a sense of place
- Use up to 19 characters, or 13 for transfer stations
- Potentially contain subtitles, but count the subtitle against the station name length
- Only mention landmarks within a short walk, if any
- Not be sold to commercial entities
Update: WMATA sent over a slightly revised version this morning that moves the 2 Farragut stations closer together, adds the parking icon to Forest Glen, and moves the U Street label. I've passed on the comments people made about other errors, such as "No Litering," "Ronald Regan," missing railroad icons and the dots on the Largo branch which should go between Orange and Blue.
DDOT has formally asked WMATA to change the names of 4 Metrorail stations in the District. It also recommended, but later withdrew, a 5th:
|Current name||Proposed name|
|Waterfront - SEU||Waterfront - Arena Stage|
|Navy Yard||Navy Yard - Ballpark|
|New York Ave. - Florida Ave. - Gallaudet U.||New York Ave. - NoMa|
The National Mall
|Foggy Bottom - GWU|
Thankfully, the idea of including a "curly W" logo on Navy Yard has been sent to the dustbin where it belongs. But for better or worse, most of these still violate WMATA's approved policy limiting name length.
Under the process laid out by WMATA for station name changes, the jurisdiction containing that station needs to first request a name change and
identify someone willing itself be willing to pay for the cost of changing signs, pylons and more. The WMATA Board then approves or disapproves each proposal.
Various organizations including Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and nonprofits have asked DDOT for station renames. The NoMA BID wanted its name on the station in its area, for example. The National Park Service and the Trust for the National Mall requested the name change for Smithsonian.
The Golden Triangle BID also asked to add its name to one of the Farragut stations, and Capitol Riverfront wanted to be on Navy Yard, though DDOT didn't advance those requests. ANC Commissioner Kent Boese has been pushing to change Georgia Ave-Petworth to Georgia Ave-Petworth/Park View or Petworth-Park View.
Of the proposals DDOT accepted, only "Navy Yard-Ballpark" conforms to WMATA's naming policy, which calls for a maximum of 19 characters including subtitles. As Matt Johnson wrote, subtitles should not be an excuse to add more to names.
DDOT has withdrawn adding Kennedy Center to the Foggy Bottom stop since there was no organization willing to front the $100,000 or greater cost of changing a name. That must mean the Kennedy Center couldn't or didn't want to pay for the change. If that's not getting added, is it appropriate to add Arena Stage? Was it appropriate to add Strathmore, currently the only private non-educational organization on a station name?
The important principle is not to let station names become "the Yellow Pages," as one WMATA Board member put it, advertising nearby organizations and attractions. The purpose of a station is to help people find their way around the system, not to promote things to do.
But if Kennedy Center is not going on and Arena Stage might be inappropriate, is it right to add Ballpark? To me, it does seem appropriate somehow, but should we be promoting organized sports (owned by a for-profit entity that's acted fairly rapaciously toward the District) and not a nonprofit and donor-funded arts organization that's contributed a great deal to its neighborhood?
(Disclosure: I am a member of the board of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, which isn't part of a station name, and may in some ways compete with other theaters or with other entertainment such as baseball.)
New York Avenue also runs very close to McPherson Square and Metro Center, and tourists in downtown hotels do get confused and take Metro to this station by mistake. "NoMA-Gallaudet U" would be short and appropriate.
As for Smithsonian, does anyone not know how to get to the Mall? This proposal seems unnecessary. Additionally, several stations, not just the Smithsonian stop, serve the Mall. Naming one stop ignores the usability of other nearby stations, like L'Enfant Plaza.
Already, many tourists use Smithsonian to get to Smithsonian museums when other stations would work better, such as L'Enfant for Air and Space. When major events come to the Mall, Smithsonian can face severe overcrowding, and Metro tries to encourage visitors to use other nearby stations. Adding National Mall could exacerbate these problems, leading visitors to use Smithsonian to get to rallies at the Capitol end of the Mall when they really should be getting off at Federal Center SW or Judiciary Square.
Finally, each name is something of a hodgepodge that contains 2 elements both in the primary name, or has a subtitle. I continue to believe WMATA missed a big opportunity by not moving into the subtitles all pieces of names after dashes or slashes. Why should "West Falls Church-VT/UVA" become "West Falls Church" with a subtitle, but "Brookland-CUA" not become "Brookland" with a subtitle of "CUA"?
If the new policy is to use subtitles, then all stations with multiple pieces in their names should use the subtitles for all but the first piece. In this case, Navy Yard-Ballpark could be an acceptable name, but Navy Yard with a subtitle of Ballpark is even more appropriate; if Arena Stage is indeed added to the nearby station, it should likewise be in the subtitle to avoid making the name on pylons and signs, and spoken by conductors, even longer and more confusing to riders.
If you want to convey opinions to the WMATA Board about these changes, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.