Metro board members, agreeing with critics that subway passengers do not get enough information from existing station signs and placards, told staff officials last week to draw plans for early improvements.
Board members issued the verbal instructions to Theodore C. Lutz, Metro general manager, within moments after a consultant, David M. Pesanelli, reported on a review of the graphics - the signs, maps and other devices - that are installed in and around stations and are intended to tell riders how to board, leave and otherwise use the subway trains.
"We have got to go ahead and make these changes," Joseph Alexander, a director from Fairfax County, told Lutz. Other board members agreed.
The Pesanelli report echoed comments made by subway patrons interviewed by reporters, as well as by media critics.
Among the potential victims of Metro's new look are the upright pylons lining station platforms, on which the station names are imprinted sideways.
Pesanelli did not recommend outright that the signs be eliminated. But he did urge that new horizontal signs be put along station walls that could be read quickly by passengers as the trains slow to a halt.
The sideways signs were a pet project of Jackson Graham. Metro's retired general manager, who described them as a way of getting double usage from the pylon structures. Many of the pylons also serve as ducts for the station air-conditioning system.
During last week's review, Pesanelli obliquely criticized that approach, "The issues of (station) design and (passenger) communication are not the same," he told the board.
Pesanelli also recommended better marking of station entries and exits, clearer marking of train destinations in signs leading to loading platforms, larger clocks and prominent labeling of the street intersections that are reached from various station exits. He also said that better neighborhood maps are needed in stations.
Colin Alter, a transportation planner for the Montgomery County Planning Board, told the Metro board that - incredibly, he said - there are no plans to install maps of feeder bus routes in stations served by those routes. Lutz said that would be remedied.
The meeting was marked by a change in the Metro board's officers. Francis W. White, a Prince George's County Council member, moved up from first vice chairman to chairman for 1977, replacing D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, who was elected second vice chairman. Arlington County Board Chairman Joseph S. Wholey, who was second vice chairman in 1976, became Metro's first vice, chairman, with the prospect of becoming chairman next year.
Douglas N. Schneider Jr., director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, joined the board as an alternate director.He replaced former D.C. City Council member James E. Coates, who was defeated for re-election to the Council.