Washington, DC Finally Gets Its Own PCB Metro Map

There was a time, not so long ago, when folks who wanted to make their own custom PCBs would have found themselves in the market for a bucket of acid and a second-hand laser printer. These days, all you have to do is click a few buttons in your EDA program of choice and send the files off for fabrication. It’s easy, cheap, and nobody ends up with chemical burns.

This has obviously had a transformative effect on the electronics hobby — when you can place traces on a PCB like an artist using a brush, it’s only a matter of time before you get projects like [Logan Arkema]’s DCTransistor. This open source board uses carefully arranged RGB LEDs to recreate the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) metro map, and thanks to an ESP8266 connected to their API, can display the positions of trains in real-time.

If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu here, it’s not just in your head. We’ve seen similar maps created for other major metropolitan areas, and [Logan] certainly isn’t trying to take credit for the idea. In fact, he was a bit surprised to find that nobody had ever made one for the DC area — so he decided to take on the challenge himself. He reasoned it would be a good way to hone his PCB design skills and become more comfortable with embedded development. We’d say the end result proves his theory correct, and makes one more city that can boast about its IoT cartography.

Looking to hang a DCTransistor on your own wall? [Logan] says he’ll be dropping the board design files and schematics into the project’s GitHub repository soon, and he also plans on selling pre-made boards in the near future.

We covered this London “tube” map back in 2020, and were impressed by the attention to detail that went into similar displays for Tokyo, Singapore, and the San Francisco Bay Area a year later. Perhaps it’s time to map out your own hometown in LEDs?

6 thoughts on “Washington, DC Finally Gets Its Own PCB Metro Map

  1. Nice that it’s portable, and you can tether to your phone’s Wi-Fi.
    But, a funny thing about carrying sketchy electronic devices on the Metro. I was once followed for miles by a rather intense looking young fellow with a military haircut, even for several blocks after I’d disembarked. It was actually just a small portable TV receiver that I would periodically extend the antenna and scan the bands with the tuner knob. I don’t know, maybe it was just my wraparound “go to hell” shades and the anti establishment buttons I was wearing, but then again that was common as the DC punk scene was raging at the time. He must not have been a local.

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