- The new map on display. (Photo: John Hendel)
Metro riders may have spotted the new Metro map making an appearance during their L'Enfant Plaza rush-hour transfer this week. No, none of the new signs or maps are officially up yet ... but for four days this past week, WMATA employees have been asking rider what they think of the new map and specifically about how the Blue/Yellow Line realignment will be presented to the Washington, D.C. public in the coming months.
"Over the last four days, we've been doing a little research at L'Enfant Plaza," WMATA's chief spokesperson Dan Stessel told me. "They've been out there with the new maps a well as prototypes of signs."
During evening rush hour, two to three WMATA interviewers stood on the upper platforms of the L'Enfant station, ready with smiles and a questionnaire for any commuter who would spare a few moments to talk maps. I've spotted the black-shirted WMATA staff for the past couple days and been curious what their purpose specifically was. A big version of the new map stood visible for anyone who wanted to see in person what the new Silver Line, new station names, and other tweaks will look like once WMATA rolls out the map in June of 2012. Stessel confirmed that WMATA is seeking additional "public input" on the redesigned map.
WMATA has planned this map redesign for a long time now and is in the final stages of tweaking and changing its designs. The Metro board has spent hours talking about how to change Metro station names and released a list of the changes in early November. WMATA will shift about a third of the peak Blue Line trains from Franconia-Springfield to the Yellow Line in the direction of Greenbelt as a result of changing Metro ridership in recent years. What accounts for the change? The eastern half of the Metro system has grown by 17% compared to the western half's growth of 3%. Stessel points out that the Orange Line also greatly benefits from this realignment, with about six more trains for each hour of rush hour from West Falls Church to Largo Town Center. Metro ultimately sees the Orange, Green, and Yellow lines benefiting as a result of more trains. More Blue riders will end up shifting to the Yellow line, WMATA predicts, which will result in more transfers at L'Enfant Plaza. This realignment will begin in the summer of 2012 to coincide with the new map.
Much of the questioning at L'Enfant this week concerned how WMATA would present its dashed lines (representing a line's distinct rush-hour service) and how they should be included on pylons and other signs throughout the system. WMATA will also be thinking of a better and flashier name than "Blue/Yellow Line realignment" by the time next summer arrives. The question of signage is more pressing, however, as WMATA plans to begin establishing its inventory as soon as next April. The total cost of all these changes will run around $3 million in Metro's 2012 fiscal-year budget.
WMATA spoke with about 150 riders about the new Metro map, according to Stessel, throughout the four days. He told me these responses "will help shape the communication material" as the debut date for the new map approaches next year.