The Washington Post

Metro map man makes a comeback

The designer of Metro’s original map is coming back to give it a makeover. Lance Wyman of New York made the original Metro map 35 years ago and will now have to add a new line and other features. He chats with the Washington Post about his work.

Here are a few excerpts from a Tuesday online chat with Wyman. Read the full transcript.

Question: With this new map, can we finally have an end to the obscenely long names like U Street/Cardozo/African American Civil War Memorial? And if we’re sticking with names that identify what’s actually at stations, let me make a suggestion: U Street/Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Answer: I’ve just mentioned the long station names. As was intended in the design of the original map 40 years ago, the thought of station icons as well as names could give you an immediate clue as to important aspects of a station (historical, cultural, important landmark, etc.). The names could be short, the visual icon would communicate everyone’s language. It would make the riding experience user friendly and help give a great city a visual index

Question: I was wondering if you’d seen Greater Greater Washington’s map design contest (http://mapcontest.greatergreaterwashington.org/) and how you felt about “rider-submitted” maps. Do you think they have a different sense of the system by riding it every day?

Answer: Yes I did see the results of the contest and there were many thoughtful and helpful ideas. Sometimes the everyday rider sees mostly the everyday aspects of the riding experience and misses some of the broader system requirements. I’d probably be guilty of that in New York as a frequent rider here.

Question: I’m sure every design process is different, but can you give us an idea of how you’ll go about designing the new map? I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Thanks!

Answer: We began at the beginning 40 years ago with the old map. That map as it has survived is the beginning now. If we can get another forty years out of it that will be great. Preserving and improving will definitely be part of the process.

Question: Please correct me if I am wrong, but the current map is not to scale, or is it? I figured it looked easier to compress the stations into the space provided. If it is not scale, would it make sense to do so, or not? The reason why I ask if out of towners might look at an out of scale map and miscalculate how far it is to walk somewhere.

Answer: The map is a guide for sequence and overall context of the system. It is more an index than a topographical map. The neighborhood maps give the topographical info. Now the map can be a helpful index when translated to interactive media.

Question: Do you still think its necessary to include rush hour lines?

Answer: We are studying that. If they are clear without making the map confusing they are helpful

Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.

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