Metro and Fairfax County are asking the public to help name the stations to be served by the Silver Line. And judging by the agony the Metro board went through last year in revising or confirming names of existing stations, they’ll need a lot of help.
The Silver Line name survey now on Metro’s Web site says the names should be ...
Relevant: Identify station locations by geographical features, centers of activity, or [they should] be derived from the names of cities, communities, neighborhoods or landmarks within one-half mile (or walking distance) of the station;
Brief: Limited to 19 characters with spaces and punctuation, including both primary and secondary names;
Unique: Distinctive and not easily confused with other station names;
Evocative: Evoke imagery in the mind of the patron.
It’s the brief part that causes the most trouble. Private interests and public institutions vie to get free advertising out of station names. Board members and the governments they represent hate to disappoint.
That’s what created such names as U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo, West Falls Church-VT/UVA and Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan.
There’s nothing evil about governments and private concerns branding locations. New Yorkers seem to have accepted the Times Square subway stop.
People who take the online survey will find the suggested names pretty basic, and they do conform to the stated goals. There’s room to add your own suggestion. Later on, there will be room for the Fairfax County supervisors and the Metro board members to add ideas.
The Metro board has the final say, but it probably will be strongly influenced by the recommendations of the Fairfax supervisors, including Supervisor Catherine Hudgins, who is chairman of the Metro board.
The namers should keep in mind what it’s like for riders to look across a crowded, bouncing rail car to figure out where they are and where they’re going on the Metro map. To those riders, nothing counts as much as brevity and clarity.