Improving lighting comes down to money, especially with budgets tight, said Lewis, who years ago was a consultant to Metro in a lighting design study.
Despite such studies and some improvements, many stations have uneven levels of lighting that make it difficult for riders inside the trains even to spot the station names on the walls along the tracks.
Some riders also worry that the poorly lighted platforms combined with ongoing construction at several stations create an unsafe environment.
“It can be dangerous when people are running to catch the train,” said John Federico, a Bethesda resident with partial sight who recently tripped into a construction cone inside Farragut North.
“When the lighting is inconsistent, it is difficult to maneuver,” he said. “Everybody can benefit from consistent lighting. You don’t want people tripping.”
Katrina Chavers, a daily Metro user who travels between the Shady Grove and Smithsonian Metro stations, agreed that lighting is often lacking. “It would be great to have some improvements,” she said.
Any significant enhancements, however, would be costly to the system that is now in the middle of a $5 billion reconstruction that focuses on safety and performance.
The Accessibility Advisory Committee says better lighting is needed on platforms, in the walls along tracks, and around the elevators, escalators and kiosks.
Improvements at about 40 stations noted in the group’s report could cost nearly $25 million, according to estimates from Metro engineers. Improved lighting at Farragut North alone is estimated at $550,000.
Metro officials say they welcome the committee’s recommendations and say efforts to improve and maintain the lighting are ongoing. The agency has a pilot program at Judiciary Square where extra lights were installed at the F Street entrance mezzanine.
Six years ago, Metro’s leadership said crews would replace burned-out bulbs within 10 days instead of three months and would do a total replacement and inspection of station lights every 10 months.
Metro would not say whether that policy is being followed. But agency spokeswoman Caroline Lukas said Metro has a preventive maintenance schedule for light bulb replacement and that staff workers change out single bulbs when outages are reported.
“If a customer reports a burned-out bulb, we make every effort to replace it as soon as possible,” she said, adding that some lights are in difficult locations that can affect the replacement time.
Some lighting advocates, however, say the level of maintenance remains a top concern.
“We are having a difficult time really finding out how often the light bulbs are supposed to be checked,” said Marilyn Lutter, a member of the Accessibility Advisory Committee and head of the group that inspected the stations. The group counted numerous light bulbs out. Last month, for example, 69 dead bulbs were recorded at West Falls Church.
“We wouldn’t be finding burned-out light bulbs if indeed the light bulbs were monitored regularly,” Lutter said.
“There needs to be a clear policy that is very much enforced.”
Metro officials say the agency has been moving toward more energy-efficient fixtures to reduce power costs and increase illumination.
“With the size of our system, this isn’t a quick change,” Senior Planner Allison Davis wrote on the agency’s online discussion board, where riders submit ideas for improvements.
Metro board members say they look forward to discussions about how to make the system brighter.
“I think our standards were set on another era when there was not necessarily the same sensitivity about the environment or those with diminished vision capacity,” Metro board member Tom Downs said at a recent board meeting.
The board, he said, welcomes the recommendations and is “anxious to pursue this in a way that it is constructive for all of the riders of the system.”