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Metro’s Plan: Get the Picture or Get Lost?

A new book, The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro by George Mason professor Zachary Schrag, unearths some interesting background on the 106-mile transit system that connects the region.

New York graphic designer Lance Wyman, called on to do a map of the Metro system, wanted to represent each Metro stop with a pictogram to assist non-English-speaking tourists in navigating the city.

Wheaton would have been a sheaf of wheat; Dupont Circle would have shown the Dupont fountain; Rosslyn, the Key Bridge.

In his suggestions, suburbs were often designated with symbols nodding to their agricultural roots: cherries (Clarendon), windmill (Forest Glen), and a tobacco barrel (Springfield).

Had the map plan been implemented, Metro would have needed new pictograms for later stations: Would the Largo Town Center station be a dollar sign representing an expensive afternoon at nearby FedEx Field?

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