Putting a Stop to Tongue-Twisting Metro Names

What's in a name? Metro says a lot, when it comes to rail station names.

Thursday, Jul 7, 2011  |  Updated 11:27 AM EDT
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Putting a Stop to Tongue-Twisting Metro Names

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Metro riders don’t generally call the rail station located at 1240 U Street NW “U Street/Cardozo African-American Civil War Memorial" station. Riders simply call it the "U Street" station.

Today, Metro’s board of directors heard discussions about making some station names shorter and easier to say. Metro started discussions on simpler names in May and even gathered suggestions from riders. Those suggestions were presented to the board today.

According to the rider research, customers expressed a preference for shorter, distinctive station names based on clear geographical destinations and landmarks.

Back in May, the Customer Service and Operations Committee said updates would happen within the next six years as the Dulles Rail Line is built.

Changing station names would require 2,600 new signs and 5,000 new maps. No word how much renaming any one station could cost.

Right now under Metro rules, station names should have 19 characters or less. Transfer stations should have 13 characters or less. But waivers to the policy over time led to station names like the "U Street" tongue-twister.

Customers surveyed said they like one or two word names, station names that “let you know exactly where you’re going” and names that are “accurate to a location or landmark.” Station names such as Bethesda, Pentagon and Union Station were cited as good examples.

Riders did not favor longer station names, such as Vienna/Fairfax-GMU, and indicated that they typically refer to those stations by a common name like "Vienna." They also pointed out that the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station name is ineffective because the Zoo and Adams Morgan aren't really all that close to the station.

Metro also tested proposed names for rail stations along the extension to Dulles airport, currently under construction. Customers liked two names -- “Tysons I & II” and “Reston Town Center” -- but found the other proposed names to be confusing with the repetitive use of Tysons, Reston and Herndon.

Customers also mistakenly believed that “Herndon-Dulles East” was the airport stop.

Besides recommending that the current station naming policy be adhered to, Metro also is recommending that customer input should be considered before names are submitted to the Board for approval. They also recommended amend the existing policy to require that landmarks in station names be within walking distance.

Changes to Metrorail system map are expected in 2012 with the realignment of the Blue and Yellow lines, with subsequent revisions in December 2013 for the first phase of the Dulles extension and late 2016 for the second phase of the Dulles extension.

Metro's Board of Directors will vote on the recommendations on July 21.

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