The Overhead Wire has a post about how rail lines should have numbers not colors. For example, in Chicago and Los Angeles all the rail lines names are colors, ie, “blue line”, “red line”, while in New York the “services” are numbered “A”, “7″, etc. I agree that numbers allow for more lines/services, but maps like colors. Almost every city in America (also, Washington, Boston, etc.) with a rail system uses colors.
I prefer names over numbers, because they allow for more information. The London Underground has names, and there’s little question where some of the lines go. The “Waterloo and City” line goes between, well, Waterloo and the City of London. In Tokyo the lines are named, too. The Toyoko line goes between Tokyo and Yokohama, and it’s obvious from the name (if you speak Japanese).
It seems like we are going toward naming our lines, but giving them terrible names: “Central Link”, “Tacoma Link”, “First Hill Streetcar”, “South Lake Union Streetcar”, and “Sounder”. I may be jumping the gun, since we only have really one line and it’s not opened yet, but I propose this if we ever get an integrated system, either light rail or streetcars: we both letter our lines and give them names. San Francisco does it this way, with the “N Judah”, “9 Potrero”, “T Third Street”, “38 Geary” etc. This way it could be the “T Tacoma”, “S South Lake Union”, “F First Hill”, “D Denny”, etc.
What do you guys think? Are letters better than colors? Names better than letters?