The proposed design allows for a bit more vagary on the rider’s part. Coming at this as a visitor there’s a fare chance I know from a map or the directions I have on hand that my destination lays west of this station , I could navigate by the directional signs alone.
Under the existing signs I have to add the extra step of mapping which of the listed terminals is at the end of which direction. This adds complexity, thinking, and increases the chance of making a mistake: Wiehle-Reston East is the Western terminal of the Silver line (opening this Saturday!) got it?
D.C. Metro is reconsidering how it represents the direction and destination of trains as part of a bigger effort to improve the wayfinding and directional signage throughout the system.
Currently D.C. Metro uses the color and destination, but if you’re on a platform trying to figure out the direction, you need to first follow the line until the end, or the other end to identify which way it’s going.
Cardinal directions are not without their downsides and CityLab has taken a survey of the Many Languages of Transit Platform Signs.
More about the D.C. Metro proposals in the Metrorail System Signage Design Concept Proposal (PDF).