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There's a healthy little debate going on over at Michael Ruane's story on whether certain iconic Washington landmarks need signs.

Not exactly an enlightened debate, but a healthy one. Here are a couple of the comments:

Sorry you don't have a job, but we are going to throw another 2 million of your tax dollars away so that all the foreingers can know what the Washington Monument is.

Maybe it'd be better to spend that money on spelling lessons for Americans. (Or perhaps knowing how to spell "foreigner" is un-American.)

You'd think someone who spent thousands of dollars to visit Washington D.C. from overseas for gods sake would at least have a guide book with pictures explaining the history of what they are looking at.

Right. Forget about just making it easier for people to find or understand things in our city.

I'm all for better signs on the Mall. However, a more pressing need is signs in the Metro. Our subway signage stinks. The subtle brown pylons above ground are bad enough but it's even worse when you get underground. Yes, with enough time you can find one of the station platform pylons that has route information on it. But how often have you entered a station while a train's been pulling in and looked around frantically to decide whether you should jump aboard?

Add to that how dark most underground stations are and it's a recipe for missing your train. Even I -- a veteran Red Line rider -- am plunged into confusion when I'm in an unfamiliar Orange or Yellow Line station.

If you're already on the train, even the name of the station you're pulling into can be a mystery. You're lucky if one of those wall-mounted signs just happens to line up with a window near you.

I've decided I'm no longer a fan of subtle things, especially in a transportation setting where my only interest is in quickly and efficiently reaching my destination. Teeny type on a Metro sign? Bad idea.

So, by all means help people find where they're going and where they're at on the Mall.

But let's do the same on the Metro.

By John Kelly  |  March 16, 2009; 9:30 AM ET
 
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Comments

You've got to branch out, John; diversify. Your Red Line prejudice is keeping you from exploring the wonders of Springfield, Dunn Loring, and Largo Town Center!

Posted by: Southwester | March 16, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I know metro needs to save money, but I really feel like the stations are dangerously dark. Sometimes I have somebody pick me up from the Huntington metro station. The don't have any lights turned on at the kiss and ride area. For awhile they had a spotlight shining on the area where people stand, but I haven't seen it on recently. During the winter, there were several times that I nearly got into the wrong car because it was so dark that I couldn't see the car model, color, or license plate. This is probably less of an issue now that we are in daylight savings time. However this morning, the underground part of the garage had very few lights on. It was so dark that I thought the station didn't have power, and a few were being run by emergency generator. Metro, these are areas where pedestrians and cars come in close contact. Please put some light on the situation!!!

On an unrelated note, I arrived home one night recently to find two mismatched gloves and a bag of dog poop on my porch. Sorry, I didn't take a picture.

Posted by: dragnchic9 | March 16, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Mexico City uses symbols for their subway stations. They are very large and easy to spot. It might be harder here, where stations have names like "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport."

We could apply the same principle to tourist attractions, posting a picture and an arrow. Many guidebooks must tell tourists to get off at the McPherson Square station to get to the White House, but you cannot see it from the station.

Posted by: reddragon1 | March 16, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

PS Just for clarification, as far as I know I am not related to dragnchic. Obviously, we are a large percentage of your commenter population, but otherwise, no relation.

Posted by: reddragon1 | March 16, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Having recently come back from New York City and used their very confusing subway system, I'd have to say that the Metro is doing great just having any kind of signage on the platform that tells users at what stations the train stops--something NYC is lacking in a big way. In fact, I've used many different subway systems and the Metro ranks up there as one of the most user friendly.

But, if I had to choose, Sydney, Australia probably wins my vote. They have digital signs that not only show when the next train is arriving, but also scroll through the stops the next train is going to make (a necessity as they have a lot of express trains that skip stops).

Posted by: DCLeigh1 | March 16, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

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