I’ve been traveling the Green Line into Prince George’s County quite a bit recently to do research at the National Archives College Park facility. The entire commute takes me around 30 minutes, and I have found the Green Line (with its new trains and sparse reverse commute) quite pleasant. From my house I walk three blocks to the Shaw/Howard University station, where the newly constructed entrance canopy has been recently completed. The Shaw station and U Street stations are quite conventional by Metro standards: they’re straight tubes buried just under the street. Things get a bit more interesting at Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue stations, both newer and larger in design. Since stumbling across it almost by accident I have always found Fort Totten an oddity. The only station where two lines cross outside of the downtown area, the station is built adjacent a park and trash transfer station, and the site of a Civil War-era fort. The station is open to the air and seems too rural to be located within the District.
The train then enters a tunnel before emerging through the side of an embankment to cross a tributary of the Anacostia River before the West Hyattsville station, another bare-bones suburban commuter station. The route then ducks under some residential development before re-emerging for a curve again through the park before a short tunnel before the Prince George’s Plaza Station (right). Tall, stark, and austere, this station is unlike any other I have used in the system. The train emerges from the tunnel into a three-story-tall open space. Huge cement columns line the platform area, supporting a parking structure overhead. Recently, the area surrounding the station is being prepared for the construction of a $160 million, 260-unit apartment, office, and retail complex at the station. An awkward bridge connects the station to the mall across the street.
Heading to the Archives I usually hop off and catch an R3, just a short ride to the facility. Although a pleasant enough place to research, the building has the character of a postmodern space station. (See this photo — yes, it is a photo.) However, if I were to stay on the train I would again enter a short tunnel before passing through parkland and the remaining two stations — College Park and Greenbelt, both unremarkable except for their commuter parking lots. The lots can actually look quite elegant — from space.