Livery, Branding, and Transit Integration
Three of the new (well, now more like newish) Czech-built DC Streetcar trams shipped out yesterday, after years of testing and stasis. It’ll apparently take them about a month to cross the pond.
What I’ve seen of them are really beautiful. On the other hand, Spencer Lepler immediately wondered why the trams appear to be in DDOT’s “Circulator” livery and not in one of WMATA’s liveries. It’s a good question; the answer, albeit incompletely, is that DDOT provides the Circulator service as a District-specific transportation brand, more or less independently of WMATA. Whether this justifies expanding the brand to cover a number of different non-Metro services DC could provide is another question entirely, but it does suggest some things about the significance of livery and branding when trying to develop an integrated transit network out of disparate modes.
To that end, the East LA Gold Line opened for service this week, and while there have been a number of criticisms about the roads not taken, one of the benefits of the occasionally scandal-ridden new Breda cars is LACMTA’s use of a new integrated rail livery. This car is LRT and will run on an LRT line, much of it on the surface, into the forseeable future; but the metallic silver and fender accents refer importantly to Los Angeles’ heavy-rail lines, as does the BRT Orange Line. While there are important technological distinctions between the three, it is important that riders see the continuity between these services as an integrated and relevant system.
At this juncture I’m not sure whether it would be wise or necessary to brand the DC Streetcar as some kind of “Metrotram” service. But this could and perhaps should be done with Maryland’s interjurisdictional Purple Line. The current MTA livery is strongly identified with Baltimore, and both the color scheme and level of investment (closer to the “pre-metro” end of the LRT spectrum than the MTA Blue Line) indicate that it will have a strong component of functional integration into the Metrorail network.
To enhance that, perhaps some sort of livery can be developed that will provide strong aesthetic reference to the (nearly iconic) pre-existing Metro livery on the exterior of the heavy-rail trains. Given the possibility that WMATA is considering moving away from that livery with an “America’s Metro” theme on the Silver Line (demonstrating good intentions but Nu-Rave Ugly pretensions), it would be important to find a reason to instead increase the continuity of a regional system that is now expanding, and which will (and must) do so even further as 21st-century realities about land use and energy intensity continue to unfold.