Last week, I noticed the Metro bus maps posted online have a new format.

Before you look at them and give your input, however, please take a very quick usability test. This test will randomly give you either the old or new map, then ask you to use that map to answer a real-world question about getting around central DC by bus.

It focuses on central DC for simplicity, as it’s more complex to code it to give you an appropriate MD or VA map, and I’m less familiar with the buses there. But a more thorough and scientific version of this usability test, perhaps one Metro could conduct, should cover more geographic areas.

Here are the DC maps for comparison:


Old (left) and new (right) bus maps.



Metro has now called out the Metrobus Express bus lines, the new limited-stop services like the S9 and 79, with a special blue dotted line. The Arlington map is now on the same PDF file as the DC map.

The biggest change is in the color coding of lines. Before, lines got one of several colors to distinguish them, though there were still several red line groups, several green groups, etc. Now, all lines that stay within DC are all red, lines entirely in Virginia purple, and lines that cross borders get different colors.

This means that in most areas, most of the lines have the same color. This makes it fairly difficult to distinguish them, especially in areas more crowded with bus lines. If you are crossing a state line and the bus you want happens to be one of the few lines in that area crossing the line, it could mean that bus is more visible, but that’s fairly rare as most places with many lines have multiple buses headed to other jurisdictions, or none.

The emphasis on express lines does draw the eye toward those lines. As there are more express buses in the system, it’s good to emphasize those, especially for new riders.

It’s odd that there was no announcement or presentation to the RAC or Board about this change. Metro has been diligent about keeping the RAC up to date on the design of bus stops themselves, so this is something of a surprise.

Tagged: buses, maps, wmata

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.