Meet the new map.
Same as the old map? At first glance, yes. And that’s a good thing. Metro, working with its original map designer, Lance Wyman, didn’t fix anything that wasn’t broken in redesigning the rail system map to reflect upcoming service changes.
It doesn’t show everything everyone suggested showing when Metro surveyed riders about the redesign last year. And a tourist shouldn’t use it as a walking map. But it doesn’t add clutter in a misguided attempt to clarify.
In fact, some of the subtractions from the old map actually add clarity for the people most dependent on the maps: Those who need a quick orientation in a crowded station or on a bouncing rail car.
Here are some things to look for on the new version, which should serve until the next big service change, when the Silver Line opens to Wiehle Avenue around the end of 2013.
The Legend. At the top of the map, riders will notice that Metro is adding line designations and some new icons. But the key change is on the right side, where the map distinguishes between “Full-Time Service” and “Rush-Only Service.” On June 18, Metro plans to introduce what it’s calling “Rush Plus” service, the biggest change for riders since the rail system was completed.
Planned Station. Older riders will remember when large portions of the Metro map designated future stations. The designations disappeared as the system was completed, but they’re making a return to mark the first segment of the planned Silver Line in Virginia.
The Mall. In a rare addition of text, the new version marks “National Mall” at both ends of the green stretch in the middle of the map. During last year’s debate over renaming stations, Metro resisted calls to rename Smithsonian as “Smithsonian/The National Mall.” Some feared tourists would think the already crowded station was their only access point to the Mall’s museum and monuments. Marking the rectangular green space is a much better idea than lengthening the station name.
Line markers. Coloring the lines is fine, unless you have trouble recognizing colors. So at the ends of each line on the map, riders will see the letters RD, OR, BL, GR, YL, or SV inside a circle.
Station names. This is the biggest style change for clarity. Metro station names have grown longer as interest groups fight for the free advertising of getting their monikers placed on the map. In the new version, the names everybody uses stand out boldly. The publicity elements are still there, but in smaller type.
Name changes. Several stations are changing titles. Navy Yard becomes Navy Yard-Ballpark, marking nearby Nationals Park. New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U becomes NoMa-Gallaudet U, with New York Ave subordinated. (Few know that NoMa is the neighborhood north of Massachusetts Avenue near Union Station, but development interests hope you’ll learn it now.) King Street becomes King Street-Old Town, to highlight Alexandria’s tourist center.
Parking. The symbol changes from an auto (Was that a Yugo?) to the easily recognizable “P” inside a box.
Hospital. A white “H” in a gray box is added for the stations near Holy Cross Hospital, Howard University Hospital and George Washington University Medical Center.
Silver Line. A silver-colored line with “SV” at the end extends from East Falls Church, but the station names have yet to be chosen. East Falls Church is not yet marked as a potential transfer station, and the line does not extend east with the Orange and Blue to Stadium-Armory. No need to add that complication now.
Beltway/borders. The big gray circle for the Capital Beltway is still there for orientation, and so are the jurisdictional boundaries of this regional system.
Yellow Line. Here’s one of the main reasons a new map was needed. Partly to prepare for the addition of the Silver Line trains at the Rosslyn tunnel and partly to reflect the fact that more riders are traveling to the east side of downtown D.C., Metro is subtracting some rush-hour trains from the Blue Line and adding them to the Yellow Line. They’ll run between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt. These rush-hour extensions are marked by dashed lines.
Orange Line. The other big change is reflected in the dashed orange line between Stadium-Armory and Largo Town Center . That’s normally the route of the Blue Line, but the June 18 service changes will send some Orange Line trains along that route during rush hours, to compensate for switching those Blue Line trains to Yellow.
Turnbacks. This is the most difficult balancing between too much information and not enough. The new map removes two text boxes that described the hours and locations for the turning back of some trains on the Red and Yellow lines. The map never did mark the train turnbacks at Silver Spring, but it did mark them at Grosvenor. However, the most problematic situation occurs for a Yellow Line rider in the District. Yellow Line trains originating at Huntington will still turn back at Mount Vernon Square during rush hours, despite the map’s solid Yellow Line extending north to Fort Totten. Riders will need to pay extra attention to the destination signs on their trains.