America's Metro

2008_0109_newmetro1

Last week, GGW’s daily links thread noted Metro’s consideration of moving to automated station announcements within trains, instead of the current announcements made by train operators.  The link included a look back to when Metro’s 7000 series railcars were first announced, more than a year and a half ago.

Automated announcements are one of those things that make it easy for those unfamiliar with the system to navigate it.   I can’t think of anyone saying this would be a bad thing, but it certainly removes a bit of the local flavor from the system.  DCist noted this last January, when the new car designs were initially revealed:

  • Automated station announcements. So no more “Judishuwary Square”.

This kind of local flavor is a small sacrifice in favor of greatly improved usability for most riders.  The more troubling aspect of the new car design, however, isn’t the loss of local character, but the bizarre rejection of Metro’s local connections.

As borne out by the DCist comments, perhaps the single most objectionable piece of the 7000 series design was the addition of the new “America’s Metro” logo.  Some see it as an egregious example of poor graphic design (and it is).  More troubling, however, is the fact that Metro is a local asset with a federal role.

Frankly, this isn’t America’s Metro.  It’s DC’s Metro.  Perhaps this logo was an olive branch to the Feds as a means to conjure up support in Congress.  However, the Metro is one of DC’s federal investments that’s paid tremendous dividends to the day to day life of the city’s residents.

The implications for Metro’s identity aren’t too promising, either.  Metro’s always had a strong, modern brand – thanks to the architecture, the unity within the system’s design, and the brand itself.  Since its creation, WMATA hasn’t always been the best steward of that design legacy.  However, the new bus liveries are promising and functional – hopefully this logo will be dropped from the final design for the 7000 series.

Washington Post Newsgraphic on 7000 series

Washington Post Newsgraphic on 7000 series

Technically, the 7000 series should be a welcome addition to Metro’s fleet.  However, let’s not sacrifice the system’s visual integrity.  Thankfully, those seat color schemes have not yet been decided.

These are not minor details, they matter.  Metro has bigger problems these days, to be sure.  That’s no excuse, however, to lower standards.

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington

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