Another year, another name change for a Metro station?

On Thursday, the regional transit agency’s board will vote on whether to include “National Mall” as the secondary name of the Smithsonian station, which the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines service. A document before the board says Metro is considering the change as part of “systemwide signage changes” associated with the second phase of building the Silver Line. Any such changes must be finalized by April 30, it adds.

According to Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel, the idea of giving certain stations “secondary names” goes back to 2012, when officials had to redraw the rail-system map to accommodate the planned Silver Line. At the time, some stations had clunky names from previous expansions, such as “Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan” and “Archives/Navy Mem’l-Penn Quarter.” The secondary names allowed Metro to “grandfather” existing ones that exceeded a new 19-character limit, inclusive of spaces and punctuation on multiple lines.

“The secondary name appears on large versions of the system map (but not small versions), as well as on signage at that particular station,” Stessel explains. “It does not get used in most other applications.”

On top of the “National Mall” addition, the District Department of Transportation proposed adding “Kennedy Center” as the secondary name of the Foggy Bottom—GWU station for the latest changes. But an online survey of 1,608 customers through Metro’s Amplify portal found that 54 percent of riders supported “National Mall” while only 26 percent supported “Kennedy Center.”

“The results of the survey found that the current station name of Smithsonian is appealing, easy to remember, and unique,” the board document says. “Customers said the proposed secondary station name addition of National Mall is slightly more descriptive and clearly conveys where someone is in the region.”


“The survey also found that customers overwhelmingly said the current Foggy Bottom­—GWU Metrorail station name is relevant, brief, unique, and evocative. A clear majority of Metro customers preferred the current name to the proposed station name change to add the secondary name.”

Notably, both proposed names would go beyond the 19-character limit set in 2012. Still, Metro’s board will likely overlook that length-violation for the Smithsonian station because customers prefer “National Mall.”

Photo via Darrow Montgomery; screenshot via board document