When the original Eglinton West Subway was filled in by the Mike Harris-lead Provincial Tories back in 1995, many wondered how long it might be until rapid transit would once again be a reality along Eglinton Avenue. Today, seemingly against all odds, the line is fully under construction and Metrolinx has until Janurary 20, 2016 to finalize the names of all 25 new Crosstown LRT stations when it will deliver them to builder Crosslinx.

As is increasingly the case with major infrastructure projects in the GTA, the station name selection process has been long in the making, made complex once public consultations and input—weighed against the realities of intertwining several distinct transit lines and modes, not to mention political and commercial concerns—are taken into consideration. 

Eglinton Crosstown LRT, promotional render courtesy of Metrolinx

According to official station naming guidelines provided by Metrolinx, the provincial agency in charge of building the Crosstown line, there are a set of rules which the transit agency must adhere to, one which attempts to balance the sometimes conflicting desires of those planning and running the system to those who will eventually come to make it part of their daily commute. The foundation of this process hinges on a core list of Station and Stop Naming Principles:

Simple: Simple names are easier to remember

Logical: Logical names provide a mental link when trip planning

Durable: Names should be relevant as long as the station exists

Self-locating: Names should allow users to mentally locate themselves

Unique: A unique name is one that cannot be confused with any other

With this foundational framework in mind, station names are thus selected according to an additional list of Recommended Naming Protocols, which provides a more concrete set of naming rules and guidelines, to which all of the above considerations can then be applied. Of the most notable Naming Protocols, the avoidance of duplicate names (think Eglinton and Eglinton West stations), consistency, priority given to local/embedded knowledge, avoidance of old municipal names (eg. North York Centre station), and the maintenance of a clear discrepancy between underground (street names/neighbourhoods) and surface (intersections and landmarks) stops, round out the list—the final caveat, that exceptions may be considered—placing an unpredictable elelment within an otherwise rational system. 

To aid in the quest for the perfect station or stop name, Metrolinx has created a handy Naming Decision Tree, reproduced below, which agency officials can put to use whenever facing the often complex decision of what to label a new station or stop:

Naming Decision Tree, courtesy of Metrolinx

Equipped with the above-mentioned guidelines and tools, Metrolinx has been highly involved in the selection process for the Crosstown LRT. In its original form, the Crosstown stops largely reflected the basic tenets of the naming process, with early station names such as "Dufferin," "Bathurst," and "Don Mills," chosen for their obvious relationship to the relevant connection to the street grid. Over time, however, and especially once the process was opened up for public debate, several of the early station names have been altered to better reflect one or more of the other aforementioned Naming Protocols, such as deference to local knowledge or reference to local landmarks and neighbourhoods. Out of the public consultation process, a list of Proposed Names was compiled, one which included many changes to the original list of Project Working Names, with "Dufferin" becoming "Fairbank," "Bathurst" becoming "Forest Hill," and "Don Mills" becoming "Science Centre," to name but a few:

Project Working Names, courtesy of Metrolinx

Proposed Names, courtesy of Metrolinx

From here, the list of Proposed Names was vetted internally by Metrolinx and put through an external review process headed by the TTC Board (which has priority over any stations which intersect with the subway), the final result arrived at last month in the creation of a master list of Recommended Names which will seek final approval no later than January 20, 2016.

By comparing the three lists, one can trace the evolution of station names from beginning to end. Of note, high profile stations, such as Eglinton West, which intersects with the TTC subway stop of the same name, has gone through three iterations, from "Eglinton West/Allen," to the much simpler "Allen," to its likely final name, "Cedarvale," named neither for the TTC station or highway, but for the surrounding neighbourhood and community. Though many commuters from across the city may prefer its earlier, more utilitarian moniker, locals have decided that by adding some local flair and whimsy, they might boost the profile of their area, rather than continuing to be known only for the nearest major intersection. A quick look at the final list highlights the extent to which local boosterism and citywide considerations have been balanced out, the Recommended Names featuring a blend of simple geographic-and-landmark-based station names. 

Recommended Names, courtesy of Metrolinx

The next steps in the process, once the final master list is approved in January, will be for Metrolinx to continue to apply their naming guidelines and protocols to all GTHA-area projects over the next several years as the host of new transit projects now in the works continue to come online. 

UrbanToronto will be sure to follow-up with the results of the January 20, 2016 decision, and will report on the findings. In the meantime, UrbanToronto readers are encouraged to join the discussion on our Forum, and to let us know what you think of the new names. This will almost certainly be a topic of much serious discussion and debate!