Warming up Metro

Metro’s signature indirect lighting scheme is getting a little brighter.  Over at GGW, Matt Johnson notes upgrades to the Judiciary Sq Station mezzanine as a means of better illuminating the darker areas of one of the darker stations.

Judiciary Sq Station

Judiciary Sq Station

I haven’t yet checked out the new mezzanine lighting in person, but Matt’s photo raises a couple of questions and concerns about Metro’s design legacy.  One is a concern that Metro’s new lighting is too cold – meaning, the color temperature of the resulting environment is cold, while Metro’s original design with the concrete, brass, tile, and carpet was very warm.

Conversely, Metro’s most recent design changes seem to get colder and colder.  It’s hard to judge these new lights by just a photo, but this isn’t the only case.  In my post on Metro’s 7000 series designs (here and at GGW), Laurence Auerbach noted in the comments about Metro’s recent trends towards cooler lighting schemes:

I’ve ridden in the 7000 series design prototype, and it was a truly oppressive experience. A big problem is the color of the walls, partitions, and seat backs. In the old cars it is a warm beige-white that softens the fluorescent lighting. In the new cars the wall color is a cool grey-white that makes the fluorescent lighting even flatter and harsher than it normally is.

My favorite Metro car design is the 6000 series (the most recent), even though I prefer the original orange seat colors. The 6000 series has the best combination of efficient layout, comfortable style, quiet operation, and high quality technical/mechanical features. Metro should build on that success; it should only change the floor material to make it easier to maintain.

The change in visual experience from the original, orange color scheme is indeed striking:

The newer cars, with the white walls, are indeed much brighter.  However, when compared to cars without the red carpet flooring, the color experience is much more harsh:

Wondering out loud – could Metro do hard flooring in a red-ish color that’s true to the original train design?

5 comments to Warming up Metro

  • The black-grey flooring is a lot less ugly than the grey-white flooring. I guess it would be interesting to experiment with burgundy vinyl or linoleum or whatever, but the former I’m fine with.

    As far as simple aesthetic improvements to existing cars, I think WMATA could do much worse than installing blue-white fluorescent lights in its 1000-4000 series cars, effectively giving a “blue rinse” to the yellowy-beige walls which, let’s face it, are a very particular 1970s-dated sort of ugly.

  • Alex Block

    Yeah, the blue rinse on the beige walls doesn’t work too well. However, the blue rinse on the white walls in some of the newer cars is just unnerving. You feel like you’re about to get frozen in carbonite or something.

    I do think that the total orangish experience of the 1000 series is a little much – the tinted walls might be over the top, but the color scheme for the carpet and seat cushions is fine, and does help warm things up a bit. The walls do indeed feel dated.

    Still, whether it’s a lighting issue or a materials issue, the trend towards harsher and harsher lighting isn’t a good one, IMO.

  • Apparently, the change in color of the fixtures makes the lights brighter, even if you do not change the intensity of the light.

    The human eye has two kinds of photoreceptors – cone cells and rod cells. The rod cells pick up the lower frequency light, i.e. redder shades, pretty poorly but eat up the bluer light. So, some architects have been moving to bluer light because it brightens offices without increasing electrical use. Round my parts, we call this scotopic lighting. (which actually means darkness lighting, due to the 19th Century’s passion for Greek words and misunderstanding the body)

    It does seem to work – but it is much cooler. As a result, they are considering repainting my office to include more colors, because the Corporate Misery Gray we inherited from the last tenant makes me want to reach for dress-pins. Amusingly, that tenant was the National Park Foundation.

    Anyway, I agree with Lawrence – and the blue-beige look is vile; Metro has installed it in cars with orange seats, and red-blue rugs. It’s awful.

  • [...] up on recent discussion of Metro’s lighting, it’s important to understand how much the surface that’s to be illuminated matters in [...]

  • [...] had a chance to stop though Judiciary Sq’s north mezzanine today, the one with the new lighting scheme.   My concern from the initial photos was that the lighting along the escalators, where the [...]

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