Navigating Metro

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I was amused by the story about tourist confusion concerning Metro use ["Welcome to Washington, and Now You're on Your Own; Minimalist Metro Decor Makes Life Tough for Out-of-Towners," Metro, Aug. 10].

My family and I just returned from 10 days in Europe, where we made extensive use of the London Underground and the Paris Metro. Both systems are vastly more extensive and complex than Metro.

Maybe because we are experienced mass-transit users, we had no problems in either city. Although many big stations had multiple lines and connections as well as tangles of corridors and exit ways, lots of signs and lots of maps, along with (when needed) helpful officials, made them easy to navigate.

Most tourists' problems with Metro aren't really Metro's fault. Rather, they are caused by the would-be passengers' inexperience with urban transit and its conventions, such as use of the final station name as an indicator of which direction a line is going. Where signage and mapping are concerned, Metro holds up well against other systems.

Both London and Paris allow food and drink, I noted, and neither seemed any worse or dirtier than our Metro because of it.



Just how annoying must something be before Metro addresses it? Tourists may flood the city in high season, but the locals who use the system regularly are its bread and butter. I live in Woodley Park, for example, and that station has nary a sign to indicate that passengers on escalators should stand to the right.

If Metro can find $400,000 to change all of its signage to include the words "Ronald Reagan" in front of "National Airport," why can't it find the funds to put up simple signs that say "Stand to the right"?

I'm not opposed to being friendly and would endorse the following: "Welcome to Washington. Please stand to the right."




Legitimate concerns exist about development at the Takoma Metro station, including the number of bus bays and the proposed decrease in parking slots and bike racks mentioned by Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter [letters, Aug. 6]. These concerns need to be addressed as planning proceeds.

However, Ms. Porter's complaint that pedestrians approaching Metro from the east -- i.e., Maryland residents coming to the D.C. station -- will have to "walk around the development or wind through it" is specious. Access on the main feeder street will be unchanged. Those who now walk along a grassy hillside or through the concrete parking lot will be "forced" instead to walk along tree-lined streets open to the other two surrounding streets and going directly to the station -- just like those of us on the D.C. side of the station. Poor dears.



© 2005 The Washington Post Company