Metro is testing out new color-coded escalator handrails at Fort Totten station, to help riders quickly determine which escalator they need to reach the Red and Yellow/Green line platforms. (Photo: Avery J.C. Kleinman)

Plain black escalator handrails are so 2017.

Metro has installed new color-coded rubber handrails on the escalators at Fort Totten station, an unexpected visual cue that is drawing hearty approval — and some criticism from Metro riders.

The red, yellow and green high-gloss handrails were installed over the weekend. They’re intended to help riders quickly identify which escalator they need to use to reach the upper platform for Red line trains, or the lower platform for Yellow and Green line trains.

Metro said the idea was proposed by staff within Metro’s escalator and elevator department. Officials are gauging reactions at Fort Totten, and will decide from there whether to expand the color-coded handrails to other stations.

“The project is essentially cost neutral, because escalator handrails are replaced about every two years, and the cost to select a color is negligible,” Metro spokesman Richard L. Jordan said.

Of course, there were naysayers.

To be clear, Metro has not changed its existing system of signs pointing people in the direction of the escalators they need to take to reach their desired train platform or station exit.

Jordan said there is no timeline for when the agency will make a decision on whether this will be a one-time thing, or if it will be the prototype for a large-scale change throughout Metro’s 91 stations.

The new escalator handrails are not the only knew visual feature that riders may have noticed recently. Documents prepared for Thursday’s board meeting outline other changes that are in the works.

Most of these efforts have to do with wayfinding and safety. Transit officials have put an emphasis on finding simple and cost-effective ways to increase worker and customer security and comfort  on trains and buses, and inside stations.

Here are four other new additions around the system:

1. More fare gates with magnetic closures and audible alarms to deter fare evasion.

Metro introduced new fare gates at Fort Totten and Gallery Place stations last year, part of an experiment to explore ways to prevent rampant fare evasion through the swinging gates that are designated for people with disabilities.

The magnetic closures prevent the doors from freely swinging open and shut, and the audible alarms sound when the door is pushed open without permission. Metro officials say the changes are cutting the number of people entering and exiting the system without paying.

Staff are planning to install the special gates at 18 more stations by the end of May. Another 28 stations are scheduled to get the fare gate upgrades by July.


New floor markings at Metro stations will indicate where people in wheelchairs should board the train and avoid uneven floor levels. (WMATA)

2. Boarding area markers for people with disabilities.

To help speed the boarding process, Metro has been installing new floor markings on platforms around the system.

Some of those markings instruct passengers where the doors of the train will be located once it comes to a stop on the platform.

Other markings alert people with disabilities to the best place on the platform to stand to board in order to avoid uneven surfaces or large gaps between the platform and the floor of the train.


Closed-circuit TV cameras have been installed to help with the curve at some outdoor Metro stations, where it can be challenging for operators at the front of the train to see what’s happening near the back. (WMATA)

3. Closed-circuit television screens for stations with curved platforms.

Brookland and Silver Spring stations have been outfitted with new closed-circuit television screens because of the stations’ slightly curved layout and the canopies that partially cover the platform. The curves and the shade from the canopy make it more difficult for train operators to see to the back of the train.

“To assist, CCTVs were installed that project video feeds of the trains’ length to the operator at the end of the platform,” Metro said in presentation materials prepared for the board.


Metro’s new tunnel wall signs could help with ongoing concerns about the ability of Metro workers and emergency responders to quickly navigate inside the system. (WMATA)

4. New color-coded tunnel signs

Metro has added signs to the interior walls of train tunnels to help first responders quickly navigate the tunnel system in the event of an emergency.

The large color-coded signs tell people walking along the tracks what color line they are walking on, and which direction to expect trains to be traveling.

In documents, Metro said they hope the tunnels can help with the agency’s “goal of reducing directional confusion in the tunnels, especially near diverging tracks/lines.”