Photo by Scott Ableman on Flickr.
Southwest and Near Southeast’s ANC 6D voted Monday night to support changing the Navy Yard Metro station to “Navy Yard-.” Yes, with a logo in the name. This is just one of the craziest of the many proposals to add nearby attractions to Metro station names.
The ANC’s action actually just amends their previous resolution, which supported the too-long “Navy Yard-Capitol Riverfront-.” If Metro doesn’t allow a logo to be part of a name, they now support “Navy Yard-Ballpark”; the previous backup was “Navy Yard-Capitol Riverfront-Nationals Park.”
When WMATA was discussing guidelines for station names, it didn’t even occur to me (or, probably, to most people) to even consider requiring names to actually use regular letters. This idea resembles the 1990s antics from the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince.
A strange symbol in a station name would cause untold confusion. How will people talk about the station in text messages? There isn’t a key for “Curly W logo” on any smartphones. Many apps contain lists of stations. What would they do? Does the GTFS data feed specification include a mode for a name to contain an image? Should it be vector graphics or raster?
In reality, what would really happen is that the station will be called “Navy Yard-W” in many places. And inevitably, some will assume that it was named for our 43rd President. This comes just 10 years after this region fought against Congressional meddling that forced the name of a locally unpopular President on a station.
A lot of organizations and jurisdictions are jumping on this opportunity to ask for name changes. Alexandria just voted to recommend changing King Street to King Street-Old Town. Holy Cross Hospital has officially asked Montgomery County to support adding it to the Forest Glen station.
The Golden Triangle BID wants one or both of the Farragut stations to bear the name Golden Triangle. The Capitol Riverfront BID also wanted some recognition, but it’s pretty clear its name is way too long to be a part of a station, even if such a change were desirable.
ANC 6D also unanimously supported changing Waterfront to “Waterfront-Arena Stage,” or alternatively “SW Waterfront.” A proposal to add “Banneker Park” to L’Enfant Plaza didn’t even come to a vote, though.
Most riders have consistently argued that shorter names are better. As Kurt Raschke pointed out, in most cities the station names don’t name the neighborhoods but rather the station locations. That’s why New York has five 23rd Street stations and doesn’t call them Chelsea, Murray Hill, and so on. They do, however, have their major stadiums in station names, and a few major centers like Times Square.
In the Washington region, though, station names have generally come to reflect neighborhoods. In fact, some areas like North Cleveland Park have actually taken on the names of surrounding Metro stations to identify the area in common parlance. Therefore, as long as names stay short, adding a commonly-used neighborhood name to a station might have some merit.
"Navy Yard” doesn’t represent the way people talk about the neighborhood today. They do call it the ballpark area, so “Navy Yard-Ballpark” seems acceptable, as does “King Street-Old Town.” “SW Waterfront” would only add 2 characters (and the “SEU” has to come off anyway), though I wonder if that’s necessary. Have people been confused about whether Waterfront station was the one in the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood?
The one change that makes the most sense is changing New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet U to NoMA-Gallaudet U. That’s the only one which will shorten a name, and one of the more unwieldy at that. Plus, the station actually has no entrance on New York Avenue.
This change actually polled poorly with the WMATA focus group, perhaps because NoMA is also something of a contrived name, but there really isn’t an alternative. The neighborhood has no other commonly-used name. It’s just not going to be “Swampoodle-Gallaudet U.”
I understand the BIDs’ desires, but just having a BID isn’t a good enough reason to add to or change the name. Heck, the Downtown BID doesn’t even have its name on any of the 6 Metro stations in its area, and that name is unequivocally the name of the neighborhood. People don’t really call the areas north west of the White House “Golden Triangle” in everyday conversation. Changing the station name would likely lead to them starting to do that, but why is this a public policy goal? If it’s so important, why not just rename the BID to the “Farragut North BID”? Then—presto—it has a station named for it.
Jurisdictions should avoid adding the names of adjacent arts and hospital venues. They shouldn’t have done it for Strathmore, either. We don’t have Archives-Navy Mem’l-Penn Quarter-Woolly Mammoth, or Foggy Bottom-Kennedy Center. Previous WMATA boards made a mistake in allowing so many things to be tacked on to station names years ago, and with subtitles we’ve finally found a way to move in the opposite direction.
Local jurisdictions and the WMATA Board will need to stand up against bad ideas. They should reject the repetitive and confusing Silver Line names where 8 stations all start with only 3 words. They should reject adding hospitals, theaters, and BID names to stations. And certainly they should speedily reject any logos.