Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Picture of the day: A nightmare scenario of Metro station names, mapped

December 29, 2011 - 11:50 AM
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Stakeholder madness. (Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Bossi)

The question of how WMATA should rename its various Metro stations for 2012 has dominated the past year. Hours and hours of debate ensued. People eventually wondered whether the transit agency was spending its time and resources wisely, so fixed on renaming stations as escalators remained broken and service frustrated riders. In November, WMATA finally released a list of new station names.

Yet now, looking back at the Great Metro Station Name Debate of 2011, a D.C. traffic engineer has now crafted his own humorous version to show just how silly and complicated the whole naming process has become.

As WMATA considered how to rename its Metro stations for the middle of next year, the transit agency looked at input from many, many different regional stakeholders. These stakeholders included universities, hospitals, community groups, the National Park Service, and others, all of whom wanted their identity captured in a Metro station name. To have a name included in a Metro station title carries greater promotional, advertising value. Should Gallaudet University be represented in the New York Avenue Metro stop's name? Should Holy Cross Hospital be part of Forest Glen? And perhaps we should add "National Mall" to the Smithsonian station? For months countless possibilities were floated in meetings and on the Internet. Anyone within the vicinity of a station had a vested interest and frequently pushed for inclusion.

D.C traffic engineer Andrew Bossi saw these debates and devised his own clever Metro map, one that imagined what would happen if WMATA listened to all potential stakeholders around the stations. What he crafted over the course of more than eight hours and two drafts was a nightmare-scenario map, one cluttered with appended, super-long names that included every possible interest group imaginable. Each name includes three or four identifying markers. Instead of "Foggy Bottom-GWU," Bossi envisions "Foggy Bottom-West End/Georgetown-Washington Circle/GWU-Kennedy Center/Lisner Auditorium." In a word — yikes. You can imagine the visual chaos of so many long Metro names. Bossi notes that his longer names are based on "existing precedents of geography (squares, circles, roads), federally-supported museums, neighborhoods, memorials, four-year universities, high schools, and professional sports team logos." WMATA has stated its intentions to avoid long names for exactly this reason (ideally keeping names to under 19 characters), and we should have no real worries that Bossi's vision will ever come to pass. But it's worth taking a glance at how stakeholder interests in transit station names can run amuck.

Here's the rider-imagined eyesore, in all its WMATA renaming glory, featured courtesy of Bossi:

Chocolate strawberries
(Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Bossi)

Bossi offers a much larger version that you can zoom in on here.

"This was initially intended as a jibe primarily at all the stakeholders who send in requests to be added to the map, but also partly at WMATA for considering them," Bossi wrote when uploading the map onto his flickr account. "But the Twitter feedback on stuff I left out has given me quite an appreciation for what, exactly, WMATA must go through in dancing the fine political line of what is to be included and what is to be omitted... so now I instead think of this as an ode to the work that WMATA staff must suffer through."

The traffic engineer has crafted two maps on this topic so far, with the second draft featured here. He tells me he's already received feedback that could lead to a third map but suspects it would be nigh impossible to cram even more text onto this monstrosity of a worst-case Metro map. Behold the horror, and rest assured that Metro's new map of 2012 will resemble nothing so jarring.

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