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TTC Cartography, Signage, and Wayfinding

why, of two stations on Spadina Road, is one called Spadina and the other not?
Because Spadina station was first built on the Bloor line, and Spadina was the nearest cross street. When line 1 was extended there, it was a choice between naming it that, or Lowther, for a minor side road nearby. Considering how few people in this city have heard of Lowther (and have heard of Cedarvale), and considering that the station is basically on the curve at Bloor and Spadina, I can easily see why they chose to name it what it is.

Dupont is on Spadina, so naming it for the street it's on would cause the same problems as keeping an Eglinton and Eglinton West station on the Eglinton line.

The lesson here is supposed to be that train station names are only one part of the navigational puzzle; treating whatever name they have as absolute will lead only to ruin, and that if you're navigating to a specific destination by address, you're going to have to pay more attention.

The solution to these problems is to look at a street map first, find the station which is actually closest to your destination (rather than guessing based on its name) and then to find the routes which take you there.
Why wouldn't you do this in the first place? Transit maps are not supposed to call out every possible destination in the city. And if unique station naming by neighbourhood were in place, how exactly would that help you with figuring out what station you want? Would Avenue station being called Allenby have helped future you in any capacity with 366 Eglinton W?

Mary O'Neill and Peter Smith have two boys and two girls. How do we name them?

Option A:
- Peter-the-First O'Neill-Smith
- Peter-the-Second O'Neill-Smith
- Mary-the-First O'Neill-Smith
- Mary-the-Second O'Neill-Smith

Option B:
- Joshua (Smith)
- Mason (Smith)
- Susan (Smith)
- Chloe (Smith)

I'm arguing option B. Sure, option A has more data but speaking to the video that sparked the conversation there is a lack of unique traits (he had a rant about inbreeding). If you think the goal of naming is maximum data conveyance then option A is a clear winner. Option B has unique names and the common higher level taxonomy is optional (e.g. (Toronto) Pearson). You might not have all that extra data but conversations and addressing people is simpler.

Going back to the founding of the city, what would be the better name of this place?

Option A: Ontario-shores-upon-the-Don
Option B: Toronto

Argument back in the 1800s ensues... how can you argue against option A, look at all the useful data in the name. Nobody knows where or what Toronto is! It is here where we are standing because we name it so. This will never catch on and is a bad idea because it is meaningless.
Both of these are needlessly lofty examples. When it comes to naming a person, there are no wayfinding considerations and the amount of general external contextual considerations are, compared to naming a transit station or stop, much smaller. As for a city, the overwhelming majority of human settlements in the world were named in a standalone way, not in the context of other places around them. If you wanted to, you could start a village and name it Moria, or Hogwarts, or Narnia.

Is ending up on Cedarvale Avenue in East York something a subway rider can do?
Yes, there is a stop for the Cosburn bus at Cedarvale Avenue. I don't see this is a problem, but to people who blindly go by subway station names, and, apparently, no other forms of context known to the human race, this could be devastating. Imagine this person to be on their way back from Cedarvale station to their residence along Cosburn, and they hear Cedarvale Avenue next, and they think that they've actually gone nowhere at all, despite having been on the go for an hour and change.
 
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Considering how few people in this city have heard of Lowther (and have heard of Cedarvale)
The idea that a name must already be widely known before being applied to a subway station is very silly. How many people (how many Torontonians, even) had heard of Bessarion, Chester, or Runnymede before subway stations were built there? People have surely heard of them now, though, at least in part because their names are exposed to millions via the subway map.

Dupont is on Spadina, so naming it for the street it's on would cause the same problems as keeping an Eglinton and Eglinton West station on the Eglinton line.
I agree completely. As it happens, the Line 1 Spadina station is also on Spadina, so naming it for the street it's on would cause the same problems as etc., etc.
(To make my point absolutely clear, I think the name of Spadina station should have been revisited when it became an interchange, just as the names of Bloor, Sheppard, and Eglinton West were.)

The lesson here is supposed to be that train station names are only one part of the navigational puzzle; treating whatever name they have as absolute will lead only to ruin, and that if you're navigating to a specific destination by address, you're going to have to pay more attention.
Why wouldn't you do this in the first place? Transit maps are not supposed to call out every possible destination in the city. And if unique station naming by neighbourhood were in place, how exactly would that help you with figuring out what station you want? Would Avenue station being called Allenby have helped future you in any capacity with 366 Eglinton W?
Yes, this is exactly my point - these names don't help you get to specific destinations, and neither does Eglinton West.

I highly disagree. 'Eglinton West' tells me the station is somewhere along Eglinton Avenue West, and makes it easy to select from a list of stations when I am researching my transit connections if I know my destination is along Eglinton Avenue West, for example.
Dupont is on Spadina, so naming it for the street it's on would cause the same problems as keeping an Eglinton and Eglinton West station on the Eglinton line.
So, do you think Eglinton West is useful for navigation, or not?
 
The idea that a name must already be widely known before being applied to a subway station is very silly.
But the argument you guys are putting forth is that Eglinton West is unhelpful to navigation, so it should instead be renamed to Cedarvale.

No matter how many different ways you slice it, I cannot fathom how replacing a street that everyone knows about with a neighbourhood only locals know about makes navigation clearer. What good are unique names if no one's heard of the place in question? If the only thing that matters is a unique name that can't be confused with anything else, why bother with neighbourhood names? Why not name it after random musicians, or politicians, or fictional characters instead? A Spock station would definitely be memorable, and not get confused with anything else.

As it happens, the Line 1 Spadina station is also on Spadina, so naming it for the street it's on would cause the same problems as etc., etc.
It's not at all far from Bloor Street, though, unlike Dupont.

If it helps, try thinking of the subway as a bus that travels along Bloor Street until it reaches Spadina Road. It announces that the next stop is Spadina Road, but due to various physical limitations, is unable to serve the stop named Spadina Road on Bloor Street, so it turns right first, and then services the stop. It then continues along Spadina Road, servicing streets that cross it (Dupont).

Yes, this is exactly my point - these names don't help you get to specific destinations, and neither does Eglinton West.
Station names are not supposed to tell you how to get to specific destinations, unless the destination in question wildly overshadows everything there, i.e. Union station, York University, Yorkdale. They are supposed to give you a general sense of where you are in the world, in relation to everything else. If you are travelling to Finch, but you're only at St. Clair, you know you're still a ways away from Finch. You don't need the station name to call out every single address within walking distance of the station.

So, do you think Eglinton West is useful for navigation, or not?
I think Eglinton West was, and is, useful on line 1, yes.

It will not be so useful on line 5, that is why I suggested Eglinton West - Allen as a compromise.
 
But the argument you guys are putting forth is that Eglinton West is unhelpful to navigation, so it should instead be renamed to Cedarvale.

No matter how many different ways you slice it, I cannot fathom how replacing a street that everyone knows about with a neighbourhood only locals know about makes navigation clearer. What good are unique names if no one's heard of the place in question? If the only thing that matters is a unique name that can't be confused with anything else, why bother with neighbourhood names? Why not name it after random musicians, or politicians, or fictional characters instead? A Spock station would definitely be memorable, and not get confused with anything else.


It's not at all far from Bloor Street, though, unlike Dupont.

If it helps, try thinking of the subway as a bus that travels along Bloor Street until it reaches Spadina Road. It announces that the next stop is Spadina Road, but due to various physical limitations, is unable to serve the stop named Spadina Road on Bloor Street, so it turns right first, and then services the stop. It then continues along Spadina Road, servicing streets that cross it (Dupont).


Station names are not supposed to tell you how to get to specific destinations, unless the destination in question wildly overshadows everything there, i.e. Union station, York University, Yorkdale. They are supposed to give you a general sense of where you are in the world, in relation to everything else. If you are travelling to Finch, but you're only at St. Clair, you know you're still a ways away from Finch. You don't need the station name to call out every single address within walking distance of the station.


I think Eglinton West was, and is, useful on line 1, yes.

It will not be so useful on line 5, that is why I suggested Eglinton West - Allen as a compromise.
Honestly, in 3 years (or not long after the line opens) no one will care what the station is called, they'll know it as Cedarvale. Is it the best name? No. Is it better than Eg W? Probably. If they kept it Eg W, would it matter? Probably not.

I don't think there are perfect decisions about naming stations. But honestly, it's done
 
Both of these are needlessly lofty examples. When it comes to naming a person, there are no wayfinding considerations and the amount of general external contextual considerations are, compared to naming a transit station or stop, much smaller. As for a city, the overwhelming majority of human settlements in the world were named in a standalone way, not in the context of other places around them. If you wanted to, you could start a village and name it Moria, or Hogwarts, or Narnia.

Naming a person doesn't have wayfinding considerations, but wayfinding is about simple and clear communication, and people use names (people names, airport names, etc) in as shortened a name possible for simple and clear communication. The number of people who say "Lester B Pearson International Airport" is dwarfed by the number of people who communicate with the simple "Pearson". Where are you going? I'm headed to Pearson. So simplicity and uniqueness is important in wayfinding. If people are saying Pearson and the map says YYZ there is a communication gap.

When communicating it is important to understand what a piece of data is meant to be, and what it is not. I have had many arguments with folks wanting to make unique system keys more meaningful and readable, when that is what a description is for, or wanting to use the description field to regurgitate all the information stored in other fields in the database. The name becomes less usable when it means much more than a name, case in point Durham College Oshawa GO, or Rogers Centre, Air Canada Centre, Scotiabank Centre, etc... you loose what you are talking about. Actually come to think of it I have had many discussions with people over the years to explain the difference between what you type in a name field and a description field. So many people say "aren't they the same thing", and my response is "only if you lack creativity". The only time they should really be the same is if you are naming products for no name brand. The name of a station is a name, and the simpler and more easily remembered the name, the better. As brilliant as Elon Musk is in problem solving, engineering and math, the name X Æ A-12 is a horrendous name for communication both as a person's name and a station name. A name is not an address, a name is just a word, sometimes made up, sometimes not, but even when not made up it is meant to be free of the description (e.g. someone named Mason doesn't need to be a mason), because that name exists only to identify (not to describe, just to identify) in a more memorable way.

The desire to make the name a detailed location like cross streets when that name is very common has the same effect on communication as when someone's name is common in a specific group of people frequently working together which is that people find short names or replacement names. John Smith and John Taylor... oops you now have nicknames Smithy and JT. Nobody says Vaughan Metropolitan Centre... it is mostly VMC, so coming up with a cumbersome name means that when someone is trying to find their way they are looking for VMC. Yonge & Eglinton becomes Yonge & Eg, or Midtown, both not found on a map. The other day I saw Newcastle upon Tyne on a map for a moment I wondered how this town got so big to have a subway, then I realized this was "Newcastle" which almost everyone refers to it by. If it has a simple and unique name than it will stay as it is because it is so clear to communicate. I'm not saying that all stations using a cross street in their name are poor names either, but once you start tacking on East, West, Centre, North, South, - Cross-street A, - Cross-street B, then it is loosing its simplicity and brevity, which means it is loosing its value as a good name easily remembered and easily stated.

EgWest_noname.png
EgWest_Metrolinx.png
 
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I for one don’t think Eglinton West should have stayed named as is. But I also disagree that Metrolinx’s naming scheme makes sense for subway stations. Subway stations are not train stations. Train stations do use neighborhood or town names. In the case of the Milton line, for example, they use the names of the old towns that it passes through like Cooksville, Erindale and Streetsville. But a subway station is very local and should be named like most Toronto stations are, by the cross street. Which is why keeping the Eglinton name as is makes no sense when you’re traveling along Eglinton and you want to get off at Yonge you get off at Eglinton station? What kind of nonsensical nonsense is that?
 
Metrolinx is not an authority to go by when they sell the naming rights to GO Stations and name transit lines for dead politicians.
You're telling me you dont love the name of Brampton Innovation Park GO station? Or the Hazel McCallion Line???

I think they sound so lovely, honestly some of the best names i've heard for a station and transit line in my life. I'm looking forward to when we name the Crosstown Line: the Phil Verster Indefinite Construction line.
 
Metrolinx is not an authority to go by when they sell the naming rights to GO Stations and name transit lines for dead politicians.
The Metrolinx leadership that created the wayfinding spec and renamed Cedarvale is unfortunately not the leadership we have now. Clearly the current political environment has permeated into the decision making at Metrolinx. How could it ever make sense for a college which receives public funding to pay Metrolinx a public entity to advertise a college? How much income could they make to justify the negative perceptions of the travelling public.
 
Nobody does circular transit debates as well as UT. LOL.

Contributing my own little segment of the circle, the goal of all wayfinding should be for a new traveller to know whether to hop on the next train whose doors are closing in 10 seconds, correctly and easily.

To that end, station names are not actually supremely important, as long as they are consistent. Which in a city like Toronto, IMO, is street names, but that only works with one or two E-W/N-S lines. Having Lawrence East East and Lawrence and Lawrence West and Lawrence West Central, etc. isn't helpful, and while I'd prefer "Lawrence East" over "Dorset Park", what we need is consistency and I don't have a strong preference which one we pick. When giving directions for subway stations, most people will say "take the train to Eglinton Station and transfer to Line 5 EB/to Kennedy (pick one and stick with it, same principle) and get off at Science Centre." They use station names, and it doesn’t matter what it’s called. Useless paragraph, I know.

Going back to Paige's video, the sign should say "1 to Finch" or "1 to Vaughan". The NB and Yonge Line/University Line info is absolutely useless - cardinal directions might be worth keeping on single direction lines like Bloor-Danforth or Eglinton, but not Yonge-University or the Ontario Line.
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Side by side comparison of what is and what could be in terms of wayfinding simplicity.
  1. Implementation of the Metrolinx wayfinding standard.
    • The "walking guy" gives meaningful context, this is something outside the station.
    • Elimination of meaningless accessibility icons and replacement with meaningful ones.
    • Elimination of the T1 and space invaders symbols for modes of transit.
  2. Note that there are three unique name types in this standard: Street Name / Cross Street Name, Facility Name, and Line Name. Those things should not be equal because if they are the same then the meaning and context is lost. Even without the other improvements the standard would bring, imagine the above with Street Name = Eglinton Ave West, Facility Name = Midtown, Cross Street Name = Yonge Street, and Line Name = Crosstown Line. Just naming alone makes the existing sign formats more useful.
  3. Line names probably should be eliminated. Clear communication requires two people talking about the same thing to say the same thing. If a myriad of different ways to describe the line exist (e.g. Yonge, Yonge-University, Spadina, Yonge - University - Spadina, Line 1, Yellow Line) then speech cannot match wayfinding without unnecessary complexity. Line names are great when they don't match station names and the lines don't have a marketed number and colour, but when that is not the case line names adds confusion. Removing the name allows dialogue to merge on "Line 1" or "Yellow Line" so that the simple roundel can be used effectively. On lines where there isn't a marketed number/letter and colour (like streetcars) it makes sense to have line names.
  4. Sign position and orientation matters. It seems that wayfinding signs are being placed based on architectural or interior design considerations, or strict interpretations of design requirements, and not the clarity of wayfinding. The signs location above a path, at the intersection of a path, and how it relates to other signs visible at the same time matters. Sometimes, when there is no other place to go, it is better to have no sign than to confuse other people who may see that sign from a different vantage point.
 

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