You Got to Be Kidding Me!

You Have to Start Somewhere

Posted in History, Mass Transit, Urban Planning by Stacy McMahon on February 10, 2005

John Kelly’s column in today’s Post includes a blurb about the Metro’s humble beginnings. I’m 29, and for me the system has always been part of the urban landscape. As a kid, one of my favorite parts of the summer was always the day my mom would take some friends and I downtown on the subway. We’d be fascinated by the lights in the tunnel passing by–at maybe 50mph, but it felt like 100. Hard to believe it started out like this:

“A colleague of mine, Mike Greenberg, gave me a little something his father-in-law, Bruno Zanin, had squirreled away. It’s a 20-page booklet that appeared as an advertising supplement in the Washington Star on March 21, 1976. On the cover are the words, “This is Your Metro Owner’s Manual.”

It was an endearing bit of PR designed to familiarize Washingtonians with the subway system whose Phase I — five stations between Rhode Island Avenue and Farragut North — was just about to open. “

Five stations, all downtown. And look at it today. Clarendon, Ballston, King Street, Chinatown, U Street, Metro Center, and a dozen more places both downtown and suburban that were dying and have managed to pull new life at least partly out of that regional connection on their doorstep. Funny, then, that Kelly’s headline is “Metro’s Promise — We’re All Still Waiting”. Maybe the funky orange jackets and caps (if not the funky orange upholstry) is long gone, but that just means Metro’s made the transition from that glamorous new toy that you vaguely fear was a mistake, to the trusty old tool that reminds you of a hundred past adventures. Sure it’s a little shabby these days, but can you even imagine what life would have been like without it?

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