Metro gets to work on ‘transition’ map

For the first time in almost four decades, Metro’s iconic map is undergoing a facelift. But the draft version of its new look is missing something: the Dulles line.

(Chat with a Metro executive about the new map at 10 a.m. ET.)

The first phase of the Dulles line is shown, but not the full extension, which will have 23 miles of track and 11 stations and stretch from Tysons Corner to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County. Part of the problem is that there has been no official decision on what to call the new rail line.

The Dulles line has been called the Silver Line, but Metro officials and the map designer — Lance Wyman of New York — are not sold on the grayish color.

Wyman helped design the original map for the 35-year-old Metro system and was brought back this year to help give the map a makeover to show the new rail line to Dulles and other service changes.

This time, Wyman wants to spice up the map with a color that he calls “cherry blossom.”

He has told Metro that he wants to show the rail line to Dulles on the redesigned map as a “cool, pale pink” similar to the color of the District’s well-known cherry tree blossoms at the Tidal Basin. Never mind that the famous location of the trees is miles away from Northern Virginia’s extended rail line.

Wyman said he thinks the cherry blossom color for the Dulles line sends a “welcome to visitors from Dulles” to the heart of Washington.

Metro officials are not so sure. They said they are keeping an open mind about pink and want to see what riders have to say. In an online survey that includes a draft version of the redesigned map, the transit agency asks riders for a Dulles line color preference: The choices are silver, orange or “a color other than silver or orange.”

On the draft map, a few white dots and gray slash marks indicate the first part of the Dulles line, which will run from East Falls Church to the eastern edge of Reston.

But one Metro expert said showing only part of the Dulles line makes the map incomplete.

“The original 1976 map was created so that it was going to have room to grow,” said Zachary M. Schrag, associate professor of history at George Mason University and author of “The Great Society Subway,” a history of the Washington area’s Metro system. “It may do well for a year, but it doesn’t have a space carved out for adding the Dulles line. This map doesn’t have room to grow.”

Metro officials said they decided not to show more of the Dulles line in the draft version because they think they still have time. They plan to offer one version of the redesigned map in June and then another that will show more of the Dulles line before the first phase opens in late 2013. Construction on the second phase has not started.

“This is meant to be a transition map,” said Barbara Richardson, assistant general manager of customer service, communications and marketing for Metro. “The idea is to keep it simple. Keep it clean.”

Riders also expressed concerns that they did not want too much change, or at least not all at once. Some of the 2,400 customers the agency surveyed online and talked to in focus groups said they did not think there was a need to “show Dulles too soon,” and it could be confusing, according to Richardson.

For the next two to three weeks, officials plan to seek input through Metro’s Web site with an online survey that asks respondents questions about dashes vs. stripes and how they like other visuals and information on the proposed map. Metro officials will then take information from the survey and make some adjustments. A revised version of the redesigned map will go before Metro’s board in October.

The draft version of the map has been months in the making and is a collaboration of designs from Wyman, Metro’s internal planners, and feedback from riders in focus groups and online surveys.

At first blush, the changes are subtle.

Gone are the cars that were on the map to show which stations have parking facilities. Instead, there is a box containing the letter P, which planners and designers say is an internationally known symbol for parking.

Designers cut the informational boxes that were added over the years to Metro’s map to show some changes in rail service along the Yellow and Red lines at certain hours. Those are now shown with white dots on part of the Yellow Line.

Two changes, shown on the map with dashes, are being done to make way for the trains on the Dulles line. During peak hours, some trains on the Blue Line will be routed toward downtown over the Yellow Line to make room in the Rosslyn tunnel for more trains on the Orange Line and for Dulles service. Some Orange Line trains will go to Largo Town Center.

Changes to the map are being watched closely, as officials are trying to improve the aging and deteriorating rail system. A local group, Greater Greater Washington, held a contest this summer to redesign the map.

In the late 1970s, Wyman worked with then-partner Bill Cannan and staff at their firm of Wyman & Cannan to design the original Metro map. This spring, Metro hired Wyman alone as part of a contract worth as much as $50,000 to redesign the map.

Wyman is well known for his work designing symbols for the National Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution, plus he developed a logo for the 1968 Olympics, the graphics for the 1970 World Cup and icons for a subway map for Mexico City.

Wyman said he has enjoyed coming to the Washington area and spending time using the trains and seeing how well the map is functioning in stations and rail cars.

“It’s a learning experience,” he said of redesigning the map. We’re trying to make it be like good music. That’s the quest. We haven’t arrived at that yet.”

Will you?

“Definitely.”

Submit your questions now for an online live chat about the map at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The chat will include Metro’s Barbara Richardson.

Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.

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