"What's in a name?", Shakespeare let Juliet poetically wonder aloud. More prosaically, we wonder whether the TTC's Downsview Station will smell--or, at least, seem--the same with a new name.

The TTC announced this week that it's renaming the present Downsview Station as "Sheppard West" Station, starting Sunday, May 7.

Official subway map teaser graphic, courtesy of the TTC

The new name anticipates the opening of the Line 1 extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre later this year. Since Downsview Park hosts the next new station north of the current Downsview Station, the TTC decided to name that station after its venue. Two subsequent stations on the same line with similar names would confuse passengers and, perhaps more important, emergency crews, so the original Downsview Station name had to go.

Behind the scenes, a clash between local and regional transit policies helped determine the names.

In 2012, the Toronto Transit Commission--the TTC's board of directors--approved the monikers for all new Line 1 stations in Toronto. In early plans for the extended subway line, the TTC intended to dub the future "Downsview Park Station" as "Sheppard West", while retaining the name for the present Downsview Station.

Downsview Station will soon become "Sheppard West" Station, image, Allen Lai

The TTC has a station naming convention, which ought to simplify choosing names for subway stations. Generally, it prefers to name the stations for a nearby street, which is why many of the stations along the University arm of the subway carry "West" as part of their names. For example, St. Clair West, Eglinton West and Lawrence West adhere to this principle, as do the future Sheppard West and Finch West Stations. The original title for the future Pioneer Village Station, "Steeles West" would have further supported the policy.

Inside the future Downsview Park Station, image, Jack Landau

Instead, the board approved swapping the names for the southern-most stations along the new line. Not only does the new Downsview Park Station sit in the park of the same name, but, perhaps more importantly, it's also to be the site of a new GO Transit train station along the Barrie line. The new name more closely adheres with Metrolinx's pattern of naming GO stations after communities or neighbourhoods, rather than streets.

During the change-over, passengers may notice conflicting signs. The TTC says the process of renaming the station will be "gradual". According to a news release, "It will take time to make a change of this magnitude and we will be making the changes as quickly as possible without interfering with operations."

The alignment and stations for the Line 1 extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, image, TTC

To support changing the station name over the coming months, the transit agency has to revise:

  • 30 signs in and around Downsview Station;

  • 123 destination signs in other TTC stations;

  • 161 platform ‘You Are Here’ maps in stations;

  • 3,184 maps on subway trains;

  • 4,000 maps in transit shelters; and

  • 250,000 Ride Guides (printed maps).

The TTC also has to change its passenger-information systems and announcements in trains, its "back-of-house" and service planning systems, and the Transit Control Centre.

The name change will cost the TTC about $800,000. The majority of the funds--$600,000--results from reprogramming of Bombardier’s proprietary announcement system on the Toronto Rocket subway trains. That reprogramming involves both changing this station name and adding six new station names to the announcement system.

View from Downsview station's bus platform, looking towards the concourse level. Photo by James Bow, courtesy, Transit Toronto

The TTC last renamed one of its stations when it opened the Line 4 Sheppard subway in 2002. It applied the name "Yonge – Sheppard" to the connected stations on both Lines 1 and 4, renaming the Line 1 station that was formerly known as "Sheppard". It will rename its Line 1 Eglinton West Station as "Cedarvale", before the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit line opens in 2021.

What's in a name? We suspect Sheppard West station will smell and seem as sweet as Downsview Station and most passengers won't even notice the difference.

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You can also learn more about Downsview Park Station and the other stations on the extended subway line through our dataBase files, which we've linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment in the space below this page, or join the conversation in our associated Forum thread.

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