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New book about WMATA

Posted by Sand Box John on Sun Feb 26 16:54:41 2006

New book by Zachary M. Schrag titled “The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro” from The Johns Hopkins University Press. I picked up my copy at

As usual it can be had from any of the following online sources The Johns Hopkins University Press Amazon.com Barnes and Noble and Powell's I picked up my copy at Barnes and Noble in Salisbury Maryland.

To learn more about the auther, visit Zachary M. Schrag’s web site at www.schrag.info

If you haven’t already ordered or purchased it, do so. This is the most definitive work that I have read. If you are expecting book with pictures this isn’t it. If you are look for a complete history of WMATA this is it. I have found it to be very enlightening and sometimes amusing.

A few priceless passages.

“Jackson Graham had little experience with such concerns. He was no stranger to public hearings, which were standard in Corps of Engineers projects, but most corps projects involved relatively unpopulated bodies of water, and only a few conservationists spoke for the fish. He ignored his assistant’s warnings that pushing a subway through downtown was more complicated then flooding a Nebraska cornfield.”

“WMATA planner William Herman complained that the system’s main transfer station was badly named. He argued that “12th and G” was both confusing (several entrances would be on other streets) an too undistinguished for so important a station. Ever the reasonable, Graham agreed to let Herman choose a better name. “I’ll let you know” responded the relieved Herman. “No” Graham explained “I’ll give you twenty seconds.” Stunned, Herman blurted out the first words that came to his head “Metro Center” “Fine, that’s it, go on to the next one” replied the general.”

“The Authority also gave the system a name. The NCTA had long resisted using “subway” and “elevated”, for both connoted the noisy dirty systems of New York and Chicago. Staffers played with alternatives, including “the Rapid” and ‘the Underground” as well as monstrous names that only politicians could love, like the District-Maryland-Virginia-Transit-System. One jokingly recommended “Federal Area Rapid Transit” easily abbreviated as FART. It took Weese’s Italian graphics consultant, Massimo Vignelli, to come up with a more elegant term “Metro”.”

John in the sand box of Maryland's eastern shore.


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