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Posted at 2:03 PM ET, 09/20/2010

Slashes keep creeping into Metro's station names

By Aaron Morrissey

Neighborhood blog JDLand reported last week that ANC 6D voted to support a proposal by the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District to add more words to the Navy Yard Metrorail station name. The BID is angling to alter the title to some kind of combination of "Capitol Riverfront/Ballpark/Navy Yard" -- while the ANC also voted in support of adding "Arena Stage" to the Waterfront/SEU station name.

We're not begrudging the mission of the BID, whose job is to let people know what's in the area. But is there really anyone in the District who doesn't know by now -- or, if they're from out of town, cannot just consult a map to discover -- that Nationals Park is located at Navy Yard?

This isn't a new debate. Metro station names have gotten somewhat out of hand over the past 15 years, especially on the Green Line. (Excuse me while I hop on at U Street/Cardozo/African-American Civil War Memorial, roll through Mount Vernon Square/7th Street/Convention Center, and then exit at Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter.) It's station name creep, plain and simple, and it's especially galling when you think about how, at the genesis of the Metrorail system, the names had a limit of 15 characters.

The Great Society Subway tells us that Metro's original planners were told to keep station names to two words at the most. Compare that guideline to the 52 characters in the U Street station name, and you can see how far Metro's naming conventions have drifted off course. Matt Johnson has produced this excellent graph, analysis and map, which outlines nicely the argument that WMATA would be served just as well with truncated station names.

The District should take solace in the fact that there are so many nice, shiny things popping up along the Green Line that bear boasting about. But does extending the names of these stations actually improve service or just confuse people? Like mom always said: Keep it simple, stupid.

Aaron Morrissey blogs at DCist. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Aaron Morrissey  | September 20, 2010; 2:03 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, Metro, transportation  
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Your mom called you stupid?

Posted by: krickey7 | September 21, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

"The Great Society Subway tells us that Metro's original planners were told to keep station names to two words at the most."

And they broke it right from the start, as one of the first stations to open was Rhode Island Avenue (granted, I don't see how that could be truncated without at least a few people thinking they're in New England.)

Posted by: mkarns | September 21, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I completely agree this name creep has been out of control, and U Street/etc/etc was one of the first and worst offenders. They need to stop and even consider reversing this trend. It's not like people plan their outings and trips by looking at Metro station names. You look in a guidebook or Website and see that the closest stop to Arena Stage is Waterfront. How hard is that? And does SEU even exist?

As for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, well that's another story. It'll always be National Airport to me.

Posted by: bowmanrand1 | September 22, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

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