Photo by author.

The southern mezzanine at L’Enfant Plaza is only used for transferring passengers. But its current configuration is inefficient. Metro could easily solve this problem by reversing two escalators.

L’Enfant Plaza is one of the busiest stations in the system. It’s the only Metro stop with 4 rail lines. Many passengers transfer each day between the Blue, Orange, Green, and Yellow Lines.

The station is plus-shaped. On the upper level, the Green and Yellow Lines run in a north-south direction. The platforms are on either side of the tracks. The lower level holds the Blue and Orange Lines. They share a center platform between the tracks, which run east-west.

Exits are located at the east, west, and northern ends of the station. The eastern and western exits are located on the same level as the Green and Yellow Lines. The northern exit is above the Green and Yellow tracks.


A map at L’Enfant Plaza. North is to the right.
Photo by the author.


At the extreme south end of the station there is another mezzanine. But it does not have an exit. It’s main purpose is to enable people to transfer between northbound Green or Yellow trains to southbound trains on the opposite line. It also enables patrons headed for the exit on the opposite side of the Green/Yellow tracks to cross them without transiting the lower level Blue/Orange platform.

But it is currently set up inefficiently.


Typical mezzanine arrangement. Graphic by author.

On mezzanines for underground side-platform stations, the escalators furthest from the faregates typically run up (away from the platform) while escalators closest to the faregates go down (toward the platform). If there are three pairs of escalators or if the configuration of the mezzanine is different, this setup can vary.

But the main reason for this design is so that riders entering the station can go directly down to the platform, while riders exiting trains encounter the up escalator first (unless they exit from one of the cars under the mezzanine). Because of this design, Metro typically arranges its side platform stations so that patrons enter and exit on whichever side of the station manager’s kiosk their platform is.

This contrasts with center platform stations, where passengers usually enter and exit to the right of the kiosk (from their point of view). Although this also can vary.

Note: elevator placement varies widely because they were added to the design of the earlier stations after construction was underway.

But this is not an issue with L’Enfant’s southern mezzanine. Since there’s no exit, patrons don’t need to be channeled to the faregates. The current setup, on the other hand, forces riders transferring between platforms to crisscross the mezzanine and cross paths with patrons moving in the opposite direction. It’s an illogical, confusing setup which adds an obstacle to changing trains.


L’Enfant southern mezzanine. Graphic by author.


It would be far simpler to pair the up escalator with a down escalator in the same position on the opposite platform. This would shorten the distance patrons have to walk through the mezzanine.

Of course, on average, a person making two trips each day would walk the same distance — a shorter trip at one end of the day and a longer trip at the other end.

But it would make the mezzanine easier to navigate and give it a more logical layout.

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Tagged: escalators, wmata

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master’s in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.