The Washington Post

Metro executive discusses new map

Sep 06, 2011

Metro is redesigning its original, iconic map for the first time in more than 30 years. It is being redesigned by Lance Wyman of New York, who helped design the original one. The biggest changes on the map are service line changes on the Blue, Yellow and Orange lines, plus how to show the new rail line to Dulles International Airport. Metro has put out on its web site an online survey to get rider feedback on a draft proposal of the redesigned map. The agency is taking feedback from customers for the next several weeks and expects to present something to Metro's board of directors later this fall. The new maps would be available in June 2012. Chat with Barbara Richardson, Metro's assistant general manager for customer service, communications and marketing.

Good morning everyone. Thanks for being here. I'm Barbara Richardson, assistant general manager of customer service, communications and marketing at Metro. It's a pleasure to be here this morning to take your questions and comments about the new "working draft" of the Metrorail map.

Thanks for joining us. We have Barbara Richardson from Metro joining us to answer questions about Metro's redoing the rail map. Join in. Ask away, please!!! Thanks, Dana.

When will a decision be made on what color the Dulles Line will become?

It's not a decision for this version of the map, which we consider a "transitional map."  The main objective of this map is to show the Blue/Yellow realignment before we begin Dulles service.  As we get closer to the opening of the Dulles extension, there will be another map that depicts the new service.

1.  It's 'a bad idea to have Orange line branches to both Dulles and Vienna. 2. Every other city I've been to that has varying terminals for the same line manages to do so without a special logo like that darkened circle for the endpoints. Either do what they do on the San Francisco map (a larger, bolder font for terminal stations) or just do nothing at all.  Another solution would be to change the information at the top of the map to say "Red Line: Shady Grove or Grosvenor to Silver Spring or Glenmont" to indicate the midpoint turnbacks.

The map's first job is to serve as a wayfinding tool.  We know that customers primarily rely on the destination of the train (as noted on the train and station displays).  So, it could be that you might have branches of the Orange Line with trains going to different endpoints.  This is one of the questions we're asking customers as part of our online survey.  (

Can you please give us a sense of what Metro thinks of Lance Wyman -- the map designer's idea -- to make the Dulles Line pink or as he calls it "Cherry Blossom?"

It's interesting, but we want to hear what our customers think.  We're mindful that, over time, the line has been known as the "Silver Line."  In the survey, we ask customers if they think of the line as orange, silver or a color other than orange or silver.  What do you think?  (

Based on the map, there's going to be three different yellow lines out there. Franconia to Greenbelt (rush only), Huntington to Mt. Vernon Square (Rush only), and Huntington to Fort Totten (non-rush only). What kind of money would it take for Metro to just run all Yellow line trains to Greenbelt to simplify this?

I don't know the answer to that, but a major consideration is ensuring that the service we run matches demand.

From Dana Hedgpeth: What is the hardest part about redoing a map that's almost 40 years old?

People have a strong connection with the Metro map.  They've grown to love it and appreciate it as "iconic."  The most challenging part of this effort has been finding a balance between preserving the sentimental value of the map while serving customer's contemporary needs for wayfinding.

At first, I thought the idea of calling the Dulles line "orange" was nuts. But after I saw it on the map, I understood why this was a good idea. Has Metro considered end of line icons similar to the San Jose VTA light rail? That might help people keep trains separate in their minds.

While we looked at more than 200 maps of other transit systems, I can't recall San Jose's.  We'll have to take a look at it.  (Thanks for being open minded about the color!)

Is Pink the only other color option besides Silver being considered? I took the survey but it does not provide an option to input a color. I would prefer something like Purple. It stands out but is not as light as Pink or Silver.

Right now, the question we're asking is whether customers think of the Dulles line as orange, silver or something else.  We're keeping an open mind and listening to customers.

My boss is color blind and always complains that the colored lines don't have actual names distinguishing them. Will there ever be an effort to number or name the lines other than colors?

We agree that this is an important accessibility feature of the map.  On some current maps, the line name (e.g. "Red Line") appears above the color bar.  We are asking customers in the online survey about how best to approach this on the new map.  

From commenter mdoallas: "Has Metro considered creating an interactive map? For example, there could be buttons one would select for showing where parking exists at Metro stops, another for the airports, one for showing rush hour or peak service, and so on. The main map would be kept visually clean, and only when a specific information button were pushed, would that information light up on the map. The approach would allow for easy updating, make excellent use of technology, and perhaps eliminate confusion with changes incorporating slashes and dots (think about tourists who use our system)."

That's a really good idea.  We are exploring options along these lines, not only for the system map, but also for station area maps (aka neighborhood maps).  

Hi, Barbara. Have you considered the new rail-car series (7000-series) in your decision to create a new "Silver" line versus the Orange line spur? I ask because, as you know, the 7000-series cars will NOT be compatible with other/older series cars. Additionally, they do not utilize "married pairs," but rather 4-car groups (which has an impact based on demand for specific lines). This may very well be a deciding factor, no?

New cars and old cars can operate on any line -- so the map doesn't need to address equipment type.  Perhaps I don't understand your question.

Will you be selling t-shirts with the new map? It not only would be good publicity, tourists may buy them, and it may help remind wearers where they are going.

Yes. Curious what you think the right price would be...?

Wouldn't it be easier to completely switch the VA terminals of the Blue and Yellow lines instead of having spurs? This would get more people into downtown DC quicker, while allowing service to be reduced on the Blue Line to allow for the Silver Line service.

That's an interesting suggestion.  I'll raise it with our planners.

From Dana Hedgpeth: How much input will customers have? Is there any worry that too many opinions may take too long or tie up the design process?

As of 10 a.m., more than 1200 customers have taken the online survey.  It's important to gather as much feedback as possible.  From all of it, we will put forth what we believe to be the best map.  The next milestone is mid-October, when we plan to show the Metro Board the latest version.

From Dana Hedgpeth: Why did you hire Lance Wyman to redesign the map?

He was instrumental in the design of the orignal map, to which we want to be true.  His input in this process is quite valuable, as is customer input.

Here's a link to a photo I took of the VTA map showing the end of line icons: 

Let the Purple Line worry about their color!

To clarify, Barbara: The 7000-series cars will ONLY be able to run 4 or 8-car trains. No 6-car trains. They may be able to run on the same tracks, but never connected on the same train. This means that you MAY have to dedicate, for example, the 7000-series to the "Silver Line" only, and it wouldn't make sense to have the Silver Line be considered an Orange Line spur. You'll just get into logistics problems (with how often Metro Rail cars are taken out of service).

Your question really goes to an operating plan, which is still in development.  We don't see this as a map issue.

From commenter Kathy8:  "The Orange Line already splits on the eastern end, so why not also split it off on the western end? Not only does using "Silver Line" stray from the use of primary colors to describe the Metro system lines, it also creates a totally new line that is the only one failing to take riders into the Center City of D.C."

Interesting perspective, and exactly what we're looking to learn through this process.  Thanks for your comment.

Have you given though to using letters (i.e. O for Orange, B for Blue, etc.) and numbers for the trains? Being able to say I'm taking the 2 or the B train would have its advantages.

Yes, we did look at titling our lines with numbers and letters.  Focus groups of customers far preferred staying with the primary color designations.  But we are asking how we mark the lines on the map in the online survey.

If it were up to me, the t-shirts would be free for anyone riding the Metro. Yet, since I doubt that would get approved, I would keep it inexpensive so you would sell more and publicize the new map more. Does $10 per shirt sound good?

I noticed that on the new map draft, the turnaround for orange line service at Stadium-Armory is not using the new turnaround icon.

The operating plan is still being worked on.  We do consider this map to be a "working draft."  Thanks for your keen eye!

Just took the survey. I strongly recommend retaining the full "Red Line" names rather than a smaller icon at the end of the line. My son is color-blind, and for a long time he referred to the red and green lines as the "brown" lines until he could read. The extra space taken up by the full names would be very useful to folks like him.

This is the kind of feedback we're looking for.  Thanks for taking the time for taking the survey and commenting here.

I don't mind the silver line name, but when I see it on the map the color is the same color as those used to mark the geographical stuff. That isn't confusing to a regular user but might confuse a tourist.  Remember it's the tourists and non-regular users who are going to be using this, but it's probably the regulars who are taking the survey and commenting the most. For the most part we only use the maps when helping people figure out where to go.

That is a consideration.  If the decision is to go with a "silver line," we may have to look at other markings.  By the way, in previous research, we found that frequent riders also consult the map for wayfinding purposes.  While they don't need the map for their daily commute, they do use it when using the system for other purposes.  

The original plan for the routings was that the Blue Line would run from Addison Road to Huntington and the Yellow Line would run from Mount Vernon Square to Franconia-Springfield. The lines were "temporarily" flipped in 1983 to open Huntington as a result of a car shortage and maximizing the car assignments needed to operate the lines, with the plan being to flip them back when Van Dorn Street opened in the late 1990s, and the line to Franconia-Springfield was shown in Yellow, not Blue (the Blue Line just ended at National Airport). The flip back never occurred because riders at Franconia-Springfield wanted a one seat ride to the Farragut West area and this is where much of the ridership was headed at the time.

There are creative commons licenses available which would let other people publish Metro's map without modification (BY-ND would be a good choice). Would Metro consider publishing the map under a CC license?

Not sure about CC, but we would consider partnering with outside parties as a way of generating non-farebox revenue for Metro.

From Dana HedgpethWill Lance Wyman, the map designer, be at any public forums for riders to ask questions of him on redesigning the Metro map?


In the past hour, nearly 500 more people have taken the online map survey.  Thanks for participating and encourage your friends to do so:

Part operations, Part map design: Have you considered creating a map showing possible "express" service with solid white dots indicating local stops (all trains) and solid black dots for express stops like Metro Ctr, Smithsonian, Capitol South, etc.?

We haven't considered it because we don't have the ability to provide express service.  Metro is, after all, a 2-track system.

A key part of my question was edited out. In New York City, one of the JFK Airport Stations is beyond the split of the A train into two branches, and having only half the trains from Manhattan making it to the airport is confusing for tourists not familiar with the system who don't realize that not every A train serves the airport. What makes you (or anyone else at WMATA) think that this situation won't come up in DC if every train going out to Arlington, whether it ultimately ends at Tysons, Dulles, Route 772, or Vienna?

Color of the line is important, but we also know that customers rely on destination signage on the train and platform for wayfinding.  But this is one of the questions we're asking on the survey.

Why is are the markings for rush hour service at the end of the yellow line (Hashed/Striped) different than the rush hour markings between McPhearson and Ft. Totten (white dots)? Shouldn't they be the same?

The dots indicate a section where there is full service during the non-peak times, but limited service during peak times.  The striped/dashed lines indicate a section where service exists only during peak times.

Just took the survey. I didn't know the starting point of the silver line until I saw the map with it as grey. As an orange line spur, it would me much more difficult to convey at what point you can board it. So, anything but Orange.

Really appreciate the thoughts and time taken by readers of the Post.  Please spread the word to encourage others to take the survey.  Have a great day, all!

Hi - Thanks for joining us in today's online chat about the Metro map's makeover. Look forward to hearing from you readers and Metro riders again.

-Dana Hedgpeth, Post metro reporter

In This Chat
Barbara Richardson
Barbara Richardson serves as Metro's assistant general manager for customer service, communications and marketing, where she leads the Authority's internal and external communications, government relations, marketing, customer research and community outreach efforts. She joined Metro in May 2010. During a career that has spanned more than 25 years of marketing and communications experience with much of it in the transportation and travel industries, Ms. Richardson served in a number of roles at Amtrak, including Vice President for Marketing and Sales and Vice President of Communications for the Northeast Corridor. Prior to Amtrak, Ms. Richardson was also Director of Public Affairs for the Federal Railroad Administration, Director of Communications for the New Jersey Department of Transportation and Director of Public Information for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in New York City. Ms. Richardson serves on the board of Destination D.C., is a former national chair of the U.S. Travel Association and a current member of the Women's Transportation Seminar.
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