Yellow Line to Greenbelt, occasional now and more common under Metro’s plan. Photo by M.V. Jantzen.

Orange Line riders from West Falls Church to Rosslyn will get more trains, and Blue Line riders at Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn Street will get more direct service into DC around June 2012, based on Metro’s latest plans for what I call the “Yellow and Orange Line service increase.”

This plan, which has been discussed for several years now, will create a few rush hour trains between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt via the Yellow Line bridge, and also from West Falls Church to Largo Town Center.

These will replace some Blue Line trains, but since these two services don’t overlap, each Blue Line train will become two new trains, adding service overall.

This is especially important to make room for trains to Tysons when the Silver Line opens. The new West Falls Church-Largo trains will become Wiehle Avenue-Largo trains once the Silver Line phase 1 is finished in 2014.

After running some focus groups on how to communicate this change, Metro is moving away from the idea of adding a new line color for this service which will only run for a few hours a day, according to a presentation to the WMATA Board planned for this Thursday. Instead, the leading concept calls for showing a dotted Yellow Line branch from King Street to Franconia-Springfield and an Orange one from Stadium-Armory to Largo.


Rough concept for map showing new service patterns. Image from WMATA.


The new map may not look just like this one; the presentation notes that riders are open to a new look for the map. Assuming the Silver Line becomes a new color, which is likely given the way we’ve been talking about it for years, the lines will probably need to get thinner to fit effectively on the map. Such a change also “signals positive changes are coming,” says the presentation.

The map won’t be the only way riders find out about this change. Metro also surveyed riders on how they get information. Only 38% of regular riders and 53% of occasional riders look at the map before going through the faregates.

The survey also had some other interesting findings. Not surprisingly, many more occasional riders (30%) ask station agents versus frequent riders (6%), while more frequent riders (43%) use smartphone apps than occasional riders (13%). Less intuitively, occasional riders are the least likely to look at the color display on the front of the trains themselves (40% versus 54%), the destination side on the side of the train (42% versus 62%).

Fortunately, this plan of creating branches in the Yellow and Orange lines near the ends affects relatively few occasional riders, since the stations south of King Street and east of Stadium-Armory are primarily commuter stations and draw very few tourists. A few Yellow Line trains actually already go to Greenbelt at the ends of their runs (hence the sign in the photo at the top of the post).

Metro feels it is critical to introduce the changes in ways that riders can understand, which communicates the benefits, and which make it easy to navigate the system.

The presentation notes that the destination points (like “Greenbelt” or “Huntington”) “are the critical piece of information.” With more possible destination points, it might be worth Metro exploring ways to help people not as familiar with the endpoints, like “inbound” and “outbound” for people at stations outside the core; south, north, east or westbound; or other possibilities.

While all of the signs (over 2,600 signs in stations, 5,000 system maps, and 1,200 fare charts) have to be revamped, it’s a good opportunity to tweak station names as well. While it’s unlikely Metro will shorten them all, some station renamings have been proposed.

New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U doesn’t even have an entrance on New York Avenue, references two very long roads, and omits the name of the growing neighborhood it anchors. It could become the shorter NoMA-Gallaudet U.

On the flip side, there’s been talk of changing Navy Yard to something like Ballpark-Capitol Riverfront-Navy Yard. Waterfront should lose the “SEU,” since Southeastern University has closed, and the ANC wants to add Arena Stage in its place.

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.