The Metro staff has concluded that a consultant and numerous passengers were right in urging brighter lighting, clearer signs with larger lettering and more maps in subway stations.
Officials have recommended changes in the station that include an end to total dependence upon station names lettered sideways on upright pylons located along the station platforms, requiring passengers to crane their necks to read them. Moreover, they are often too hard to locate at a glance.
To supplement the upright signs, station names would be displayed horzontally every 50 feet in large letters along the station wall, pretty much as they are in older subway systems, such as New York's.
In addition to that station name, each sign also would contain lettering and arrows pointing toward street intersections reached from station exits - a reform especially needed, some Metro board members have asserted recently, because stations on the Washington subway are not called generally by street names, but by such generalized and often not widely recognized names as Metro Center, Farragut North and Gallery Place.
A preliminary recommendation for changes was prepared by Sprague Thresher, Metro's director of architecture, and presented to the Metro board last week by Theodore C. Lutz, the general manager. A decision is expected soon.
Lutz estimated that changes in the station graphics - signs, maps and some lighting - would cost $168,000 for the system's first 25 stations. The biggest single item, $115,000, would be the horizontal signs for the station walls.
Some changes in station signs already have been made. For example, the size of lettering on the pylons that directs passengers to and from the platforms had been madr larger. A prototype of new signs indicating the platforms served by trains going to various destinations has been installed on station kiosks in the Judiciary Square station.
Public criticism of insufficient graphics began nearly a year ago when the first five-mile subway line was opened for public service. As a result, Metro hired David M. Pesanelli, Inc., of Washington to study the original installation and how the riding public reacted to it.
The firm's main conclusion dealth with the size, location and illumination of the sign, including recommendations that station entries be better marked at the street level, that more and better maps should be installed and Metro brochurs should be written in simpler language.
Thresher recommended that a limited test be made of installing maps at the sidewalk entrances of only a few busy stations.
As part of the installation of the new horizontal station signs, some of the upright pylons - those not needed for mechanical purposes - would be eliminated. Some of the pylons are used as ducts for air conditioning the underground stations.