Visitors to DC generally navigate using the Metro map and a street map. The Metro map has become so iconic that it forms many visitors’ mental images of DC. However, that map makes no mention of Georgetown, Adams Morgan, and other major destinations.

The Circulator serves those areas, and one of its roles is to serve as an easier-to-understand, no-change-required tourist bus to the places tourists might go, including the Mall, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, the Capitol, Barracks Row, and the ballpark. However, the Circulator’s official map only shows Metro stations, not the lines themselves.


These two maps don’t work together well.


To really navigate DC, a visitor would need to look at both maps and figure out how to merge the two. Why make them do this work? Why introduce the potential for confusion and mistakes?

DC should create a merged map.

One side (when the map is printed on paper) should have the well-known stylized Metro layout with the Circulator added in:


Click to enlarge.


Visitors would use this to understand how areas relate to one another and plot transit routes between them. Meanwhile, the other side should use a street-based layout, but including Metrorail lines as well as Circulator lines. Visitors would use that one to figure out where exactly to find a Circulator stop or a Metro station.

This map could go into guidebooks, be handed out in hotels, and be posted on kiosks in visitor-heavy areas. Maybe Metro could even include it, along with the regular map, at some downtown stations. This map could form visitors’ new mental image of the layout of DC. Instead of leaving out many important areas, it would incorporate them.

Transportation agencies need to think beyond simply how to showcase their own services. Visitors, residents, and others don’t really care which agency runs a service; they care what service gets where they need to go.  We need maps that show people the services they might want, tailored to their needs.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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.