that was my memory, too, from visiting as a kid in the mid 80s. we stayed in Arlington and bussed to the nearest train stn everyday, toured all the sights that way. it was really nice, easy, and futuristic looking. guess those days are gone.
to the topic, Docter has the right idea. he's of a different generation, but i think as the graffiti generation ages, non-graf guerrilla urban beautification is getting even more common. i started pruning overhanging branches on the sidewalks of my neighborhood since the damn city or my stupid neighbors with adjacent property were obviously never going to and it was just ridiculous. whole blocks you'd have to bend over or go in the road. i was getting my danged eye poked out every time i walked the dog, so i started taking pruning shears with me. came out real nice. wheelbarrowed a bunch of gravel over to where the park eroded a few times, too. it all felt the same as when i used to put up murals. like, the middle-aged fart version of putting up murals.
doesn't DC Metro know the rules? when you go over someone you have to burn them i.e. put up something better. Docter got dissed, for sure.