Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
As WMATA's newest rail line debuts, a look back at videos from the early days of Washington's transit system.
Starting Saturday, Washingtonians will be able to get to and from Northern Virginia a little more easily by Metrorail.
The transit system's Silver Line finally debuts this week, taking passengers from the inner-ring suburbs of Prince George's County through the District and into the area around hyper-suburban Tysons Corner. Much of the line travels the same tracks that the Orange and Blue lines have for years, but new stations in sprawling Fairfax County will help more Virginians avoid infamously bad traffic and give carless city dwellers more access to jobs and stores.
The Silver Line comes with just five new stations for now (six more, including a sure-to-be popular stop at Dulles International Airport, are planned for 2018) but it's still more than enough progress to make Northern Virginians dance all the way from their subdivision to their train. At least according to WMATA's newest promotional video:
This gem is from the transit agency's "good times are ahead" campaign, and the only one that doesn't make fun of the miseries of potential customers. (Previous spots include Washingtonians traumatized by traffic, underemployed, or unable to date without the Silver Line.)
WMATA promoted itself a little more seriously when their trains started running in 1976. Back then, Washingtonians boarded the brand-new Metro with dreams of controlled regional growth and functioning station escalators. It was an exciting time, captured quite nicely in the transit agency's Metro: Here and Now, released shortly after the system debuted. In it, viewers get familiar with the convenient new service, supported by comfortable rail cars and modern stations:
Around the same time, WMATA also produced Earth Tunnels, a short film that highlighted the construction and engineering work behind Metro's underground paths. Respecting the intellectual curiosity of its riders, the film starts off by explaining how tunnel building has evolved since the 1200s, period-specific illustrations included.
Unfortunately, the new Silver Line stations are all above ground, which means we shouldn't expect a 21st-century update for fans of Earth Tunnels any time soon.