May 30, 2006

Washington’s Metro brightens mood

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The dimly lit, ribbed caverns of
Washington's Metro rail stations, a daily source of eye strain
for newspaper-toting commuters for 30 years, are about to get

Metro on Tuesday announced plans to install new,
high-intensity light bulbs and change them more often as part
of an effort to double the light output in its 47 underground

The system's soft lights reflected off molded concrete
station walls and ceilings represented the height of futuristic
architecture when the system opened in 1976.

But Metro officials say poor lighting is the top customer
maintenance-related complaint about the system. While the mood
lighting creates architectural drama, it can be difficult to
make out facial features on some station platforms.

"There's a psychological effect. When a station is brightly
lit, it looks safer, it feels safer," said Metro spokeswoman
Candace Smith.

Metro crews will immediately begin installing brighter
bulbs and fluorescent tubes in existing indirect lighting
fixtures and expand the use of light-emitting diodes in the
flashing platform lamps that signal an approaching train.

Metro crews will replace burned out bulbs of all types
within two weeks instead of up to three months currently.

"We want to make stations brighter and use lights that will
be more reliable, less expensive in the long run and more
energy efficient," said Tangherlini. "We think it'll improve
the atmosphere of the stations while still preserving the
architectural aesthetics, deter crime and enhance the images
captured on Metro's camera system."

The short-term measures will cost $390,000 and Metro also
will spend $300,000 to study new lighting systems, including
overhead lamps, to determine how they affect the look and feel
of stations. The U.S. Commission on Fine Arts will be consulted
on their architectural integrity.