Mix and Map


It’s just 10 days until the start of Rush+, Metro’s much-hyped attempt to make more commutes transfer-free. The plan adds Yellow and Orange Line trains that divert from their typical paths, so you’ll be able to go from Greenbelt to Franconia-Springfield without ever giving up your seat, or to Largo instead of Landover on the Orange Line.

And for a Red Line commuter like me? Rush+ means I’ve been greeted by a new map in every Metro train and station.

Metro’s maps, those colorful jumbles of snaky lines that represent local train service, are something I spend a lot of time studying. Whenever I’m riding and too zonked out to read or eavesdrop on conversations, I’m staring at a map — and sometimes unnerving the tourists who decide to stand in front of it.

So I’ve been getting acquainted with this revamped version, which uses hatched lines to represent the route diversions and features updated station names. It’s really not so different from its predecessor — original designer Lance Wyman was brought back to help with the makeover — and retains some of its charming geographical quirks. (For instance, U Street still appears to be south of Dupont Circle.)

But my nostalgic side wasn’t quite prepared to let go of the old map any more than the riders who’ve managed to ignore Metro’s all-out information assault are going to be ready to ride on June 18. That changed when I saw MetroForward’s Flickr set of workers screen-printing the new signage.

I swooned. The photos show how Metro maps are produced by adding one color at a time. First, there’s just a simple, gray Y-shape representing water. Next come the strips of green parkland. Then the train lines arrive, one by one, to await the grand finale: black circles and text. It would make for an amazing art series — totally suitable for framing — but Metro spokesperson Cathy Asato says they won’t be selling partially printed maps.

If you’ll willing to settle for the finished product, Metro’s online store currently offers two versions for $25 each: “system map” and “new system map.” No thanks. I can stare for free.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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