The DC subway system's architecture sucks - Jay Maynard

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Monday, 3 December 2007


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0630 - The DC subway system's architecture sucks

I'm in Washington, DC this week for a job. This is one place I avoid renting a car, instead traveling on foot and by subway.

The New York, Boston, and Philadelphia subway systems' station architecture is bare-bones functional. They didn't spend a lot (any?) money on making it look pretty. The Washington Metro is different. Someone decided that they needed to pay attention to the design, as well as the function.

The function works well enough. The design, however, couldn't have been worse if they tried. It's like they told the architect to make it as dark and foreboding as possible. Everything's concrete, and lit from below. The effect is overwhelmingly evil and oppressive. I suspect it won lots of design awards.

I'll use it, but I really wish they'd gone for something more friendly in appearance.

current mood: [mood icon] grumpy

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:grimfndngo
Date: - 0000
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Be glad there are no gum chew spots everywhere. I take Metro all the time and it is actually nice to be in a clean metro system. :)
From:strredwolf
Date: - 0000
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From:ginafae
Date: - 0000
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Have you ever had to change concourses in the Detroit Airport? When you go underneath in the big tunnel that's lit weirdly and playing strange ambient music? Did you feel like you were in Logan's Run?

For some reason your post here made me think of that. *Grin*

I don't remember DC's metro being very oppressive. But then, I was trying to focus on not being too Midwestern and standing in the middle of the escalator taking up the whole thing while gawking at the scenery. LOL I am hyper-concious of this sort of thing when I am in big cities. "Pretend I am from here! What are they doing? Do THAT!"
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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I know exactly the tunnel you're talking about. There's another one pretty much like it at O'Hare (I think). It is weird, indeed.

I don't worry much about not being a tourist. If I've never been somewhere, dammit, I am a tourist, and I'm going to enjoy it.
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From:ginafae
Date: - 0000
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The whole time we went through that tunnel I stood behind Frank and said, in an ominous voice, "Obey... Obey... Obey... You have no desires... Obey... Obey... Obey..."

He just couldn't quit laughing.
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From:korgmeister
Date: - 0000
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I have this suspicion the architect was an objectivist with a very weird sense of humour.
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From:zarchasmpgmr
Date: - 0000
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Playing ketchup.

The eras are so different. The 3 you list were all built in the early part of the 20th Century, when function was important (although the tile mosaics in the IRT stations I think are very beautiful). I also think of London's and Paris' older stations, too, for their simplicity yet elegance.

(Although LU's Westminster? Bizarre; the rebuild was for the Jubilee Line Extension. But Paris' Line 14 (Méteor) stations are very modern but not sci-fi.)

DC's was supposed to be a "showcase for the nation", so it carries a lot of baggage, including its "hip" design from the late 1960's/early 1970's. It originally also shared a lot of technology with BART, so much so that at one time farecards from one system would work in the other. (I don't think that's the case any more.)

But at least DC didn't use the ridiculous 5'0" gauge that BART saddled itself with.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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If the DC Metro's design is hip, it needs a joint replacement. It doesn't come off hip, but oppressive.

What's wrong with a 5-foot gauge? What gauge did DC use?
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From:zarchasmpgmr
Date: - 0000
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DC uses railroad standard 4'8½" (I think that's the right number), as do all other subways in the USA.

The problem with BART's 5'0" is that it is non-standard, which means that BART could never piggyback on anyone else's order. Thus, rail car contracts have to include costs for the manufacturer's retooling of assembly lines. (For example, WMATA and MARTA (Atlanta) have combined train orders, saving money all around.)

I was hunting for awards, and although I couldn't find any quickly, I did find evidence that Parsons must be pretty proud of themselves. But an Internet search found this from George Mason University. Interesting, at least to this not-so-much-of-a-transit-fan any more.

Oh, and I extend a friends list invite to you. You can read my work rants. :-D (I do have a link to Hercules on my basic page layout.)

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