Can a transit system foster love for a city? Torontonians may scoff, but Londoners will nod. The underground—better known as the Tube—is often cited as a reason why so many Londoners take pride in their city.
One trait of the Tube—and possibly something that Toronto can learn from—is the way in which stations are named after the city’s neighbourhoods and landmarks. A journey where you board at Notting Hill, travel past Marble Arch and St. Paul’s, change trains at Bank, and alight at London Bridge provides a series of reminders about the city’s rich history and diversity.
Consider also the names of the Tube lines. “Jubilee” and “Victoria” allude to the country’s fixation with royalty, “District” and “Metropolitan” suggest the city’s vastness (and not coincidentally are the names of two historic transit operators), while “Bakerloo” is a neologism for the line connecting Baker Street, of Sherlock Holmes fame, with Waterloo, the major southern rail terminus.
Contrast that to riding Toronto transit. You’d never know that you were passing by the Annex, Swansea, or Riverdale—though curiously you’re reminded about Rosedale—or that you were near City Hall or Yonge-Dundas Square. There are some welcome exceptions, clustered mostly between Museum and St. Andrew, but they’re scarce. At best, this deprives us from some local colour. At worst, this keeps us ignorant about other neighbourhoods: why care about Bloordale Village or Crescent Town if you don’t know where they are?
Renaming existing stations may be too expensive (though it’s fun to speculate on what could have been, as visitors to Steve Munro’s excellent website did so last year), but why not embrace the celebratory and colourful from here on? Expand the Spadina line north to “Elia” and “Black Creek” stations rather than “Finch West” and “Steeles West,” spare us all from the “Vaughan Corporate Centre Station,” and let’s start brainstorming about station names for those new transit lines along Eglinton, Jane, and the waterfront.
As for the subway lines, renaming them would be relatively straightforward and could even serve as an attention-grabbing way of moving Transit City forward. “Sheppard” is concise if dull, “Bloor-Danforth” is barely acceptable, and “Yonge-University-Spadina” is several syllables too long and, if we’re going to be picky, geographically incomplete to boot. What names would you propose?
Photo (c) Transport for London 2005.