City Paper is not for tourists
For several years now, the Gallery Place Station has been Metro’s equivalent of the Devil’s playground. But now it really looks the part.
Recently, Metro began a six-month test of new lights along the platform edge. The latest models use light-emitting diodes, which draw substantially less electricity than the original yellowish-white incandescent bulbs and are supposed to last about 40 times as long. This will save money and be less disruptive, since the LEDs shouldn’t have to be replaced nearly so often.
So far, so good. But the lights along the lower platform, which serves the Yellow and Green Lines, are a garish yellow-orange that clashes with Metro’s trademark earth tones. And the ones on the upper platform, where Red Line trains arrive and depart, are a vivid red that gives the station a house-of- blood vibe. (Too bad Metro is so reluctant to let filmmakers shoot in the system; horror-flick directors would love this new look.)
The lurid makeover follows another experiment at Gallery Place. To help the supposed transit novices drawn to the station by the MCI (now Verizon) Center, Metro added lots of signs. Information is good, of course, but the added signage is motley and overpowering. It features a mismatch of serif and sans serif type, and adds tan and white backgrounds to the brown that Metro’s used since it opened in 1976. Almost everyone agrees that the austere original Metro design was short on rider info, but what was done at Gallery Place is a mess.
The latest additions to the station’s signage are video screens near the entrances that report when the next three trains are due. This is the same data that’s been available inside the station for years, but these screens are outside the faregates. That’s potentially useful, even if the new screens are ugly.
According to the Washington Post, Metro wants to see which color of LED does a more effective job of keeping passengers away from the edge of the platform. The likely answer is: neither. People will get used to the lights and behave as they always have.
If Metro really wants to keep people off the tracks, it will have to do what new transit lines in Europe and Asia have been doing for at least a decade: build transparent barriers along the platforms with gates that open only when aligned with the doors of a train. That would be more expensive than replacing platform lights, of course, and would require Metro to upgrade its automatic train control system to stop trains in the exact same position every time. (Of course, it should do that anyway.)
The eerie red lights might actually attract people to the edge of the platform. The LEDs are at their most ominous when there’s a train in the station, and the red light reflects on the silver shells of the cars. It looks a bit like gore glistening on a blade wielded by a slasher movie’s antihero.
This is not the first time Metro has done something that could be termed “diabolical,” but never before has the agency wrapped its mischief in such a hellish color scheme.