On a hot August day a few years hence, after Metro's Red Line finally reaches north up Connecticut Avenue, some nice young parents from Iowa with a couple of small children in tow will set off by subway to see the pandas at the National Zoo - and will find themselves at the Sheraton Park instead.
This will happen because the Metro station named Zoological Park is 2,280 feet - almost half a mile - from the entrance to the zoo. The station, whose entrance is to be in a triangle bounded by 24th Street, Connecticut Avenue and Calvert Street, is located in an area generally known as Woodley Park.
There's more. The southern entrance to the Cleveland Park Station, at Connecticut Avenue and Ordway Street NW, will be 106 feet closer to the zoo entrance than the Zoological Park station.
Will Metro put up signs, big signs that people can see, telling tourists that it is easier to get to the zoo from the Cleveland Park Station than the zoo station? Better yet, will Metro change the name of the Zoological Park station to Woodley Park or to something else that describes its location more accurately?
The first question is unanswered. Historically, this desk receives more complaints about inadequate information and confusing signs in the Metro stations than about any other subject save Farecard.
The second question comes up only because the Metro Board decided at a recent meeting to schedule a discussion on renaming some of Metro's stations. The planned Federal City College station, for example, obviously should become something else, because Federal City College no longer exists.
The subject of station names has been a trying one for Metro over the years and has involved cabinet officers, neighborhood associations and city council chairmen. Despite all this good advice, Metro has some dandies:
Stadium - Armory. This could more accurately have been called the Hospital-Jail station, but that doesn't have quite the same ring. First Lady Rosalynn Carter, on a recent subway ride to D.C. General Hospital, asked Metro General Manager Theodore C. Lutz to include the hospital in the announcements as trains approached the Stadium-Armory station. Metro's train operators now do just that.Nobody has asked that the jail be mentioned.
Foggy Bottom - George Washington University. The center of the real Foggy Bottom is alleged to be several blocks to the south of the station by people who claim to know. George Washington University is almost entirely to the east, but was added to the station name after entreaties from university officials. Washington Circle is one block away. Why not Washington Circle?
Metro Center. The tracks of two Metro lines cross here. A lot of people think that Metro headquarters is located here as well, but it isn't. It is near Judiciary Square, which once was to be named Municipal Center. "What else would you call Metro Center?" asked Metro spokesman Cody Pfanstiehl. "How about 12th and G Streets?" he was asked. "Too logical," he said.
Federal Center Southwest. That name comes from Kliot Richardson, who noticed back in September 1971 that a station right outside his very own Department of Health, Education and Welfare was going to be named Voice of America, which was located in one of Richardson's buildings. "The Voice of America is by far the smallest agency in the Southwest area," the HEW secretary sniffed in a letter. He recommended as an alternative the name the station now bears.
Farragut North/Farragut West. This set of names for tow distinct, totally unconnected stations on two different lines apparently happened because nobody could figure our what else to do. In the beginning, only one line was planned for the neighborhood. The station was to be called, reasonably enough, Farragut Square. When the other line and another station were added, it just got too hard.
"We thought about calling Farragut West 17th Street," said Pfanstiehl, "but there are two 17th Streets there, you know." Each 17th Street now has its own Farragut station.
The Eastern Market station started out on metro maps as Marine Barracks, a name much favored by jackson Graham, a retired Army general who was then Metro general manager. The Capitol Hill Restoration Society lobbied, wrote letters, attended hearings, and won Eastern Market. Either name would have been appropriate. Pennsylvania Avenue and 8th Street SE might have been more helpful, however
That brings us bace to Zoological Park. According to Pfanstiehl, the Zoological Park station was originally to be located at the entrance to the Zoo. When the station was moved, the name moved with it. In February 1971, City Council Chairman Gilbert Hahn Jr. wrote the Metro Board and said:
"I would like to call attention to the inappropriateness of the name 'Zoological Park' for a station which is not only blocks away from the entrance to the Zoo but is located in a distinctly different commerical area . . ."
City Council chairmen change. Subway stations move. But the names remain.