The Washington Times - July 8, 2011, 04:07PM

Perhaps in a nod to a generation that communicates in bursts of 140 characters or less, Metro’s leaders are endorsing plans to tighten up lengthy and confusing station names.

The transit system’s board of directors on Thursday considered feedback from rider focus groups on how best to quickly and clearly identify its train stops, which boiled down to using straightforward, short names.


Barbara Richardson, head of Metro customer service, communications and marketing, explained to board members that riders want the system to hold to its policy of limiting name length to 19 characters, 13 characters for transfer points, and to base names on geographical and accurate landmark descriptions.

“In” with customers are names like Union Station, Bethesda, Smithsonian.

“Out” with customers are names like U Street African-Amer Civil War Memorial Cardozo and Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan.

The latter names are not only mouthfuls but can be inaccurate, Ms. Richardson said.

The idea of updating station names stemmed from planning Metro’s Silver Line out to Washington Dulles International Airport, which will add eight new stations to the system.

New maps will need to be printed, providing an opportunity to clean up the names in one fell swoop.

Metro board member Alvin Nichols from Prince George’s County suggested that “it might be useful to capture the experience of ‘where am I?’” while Mary Hynes, a board representative from Arlington County cautiously supported the idea of having a primary and a secondary name for a station, such as “Mt Vernon Sq” with “7th St-Convention Center” in smaller type underneath — provided “you don’t end up with three lines of type underneath.”

The name changes would be cost neutral, Ms. Richardson said, and the board would need to approve any changes.

She did warn, however, that these standards shouldn’t apply to existing names because “riders want to hold tight” to station names they’ve come to recognize.