WMATA decided to revise our iconic Metro map to include the Silver Line and account for slight changes in rush-hour service on the Orange and Blue Lines. The new design, pictured above, ameliorates one of the agency’s usability problems: name sprawl. The new map wisely rearranges several station names to move the less important parts of sprawling names onto smaller subtitles.
When the system was built, station names were originally designed to be short and represent geographic places. Due to politics, local boosterism, and unwise interference from local politicians, some names have exploded in length. The U Street station name, “U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo”, is often cited as the poster child of clunky name sprawl. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. U Street as a place has a history and regional recognition strong enough to stand on its own. The station was originally listed as “U Street”, but then “Cardozo” got tacked on. Worse yet, in 1999 the DC Council voted (and paid) to change the name from “U Street-Cardozo” to the ridiculously longwinded “U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo” in honor of the new memorial at the 10th Street entrance.
Since shortening a station name is fraught with political peril— imagine the accusations if you tried to remove “African-American Civil War Memorial” from U Street’s name— WMATA is simply rearranging long names to create primary names and subtitles. U Street isn’t the only station getting this much-needed reordering. Woodley Park (Zoo/Adams Morgan), Gallery Place (Chinatown), Mt. Vernon Square (7th St – Convention Center), and Archives (Navy Memorial – Penn Quarter) are among the other station names that will become less graphically imperious on the map.