The Naming Fad


Andrea Horvath, I like you. But you and the Ontario NDP have stepped into some serious eye-rolling territory here. Folks, read on:

NDP wants to name TTC station after Nelson Mandela

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath proposes new station be named after South African icon

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wants one of the yet-to-be-built Scarborough subway stations to be named after South African liberator Nelson Mandela.

She introduced a surprise motion in the Ontario legislature to name the first stop in the proposed new subway line in honour of the recently deceased Mandela. Her motion received unanimous support.

Christening the station after Mandela would be a break with the Toronto Transit Commission’s typical naming conventions. Most of the current stations are named after streets, buildings or other geographic identifiers.


Where have I heard this before? Oh, yes: when Princess Diana died.


TORONTO, Sept. 4 _(1997 —jb) /CNW/ - At the next TTC Commission meeting_

(September 9), TTC Chair Paul Christie will propose the naming of the Sheppard Line Station at Sheppard and Yonge, as Princess station.

“As a living memorial to the compassion and humanitarianism of the people’s princess, it is only fitting that we honor her life and legacy in this special way,” said Chair Christie.

Princess station would be the first station on the new Sheppard line, located one level above the existing Sheppard station on the Yonge line. The station will be opened in the year 2002 with the completion of the Sheppard Subway program.

The station will be dedicated with a memorial plaque and appropriate art work in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, and will be signed Princess station.


Of course, if you look at a TTC subway map today, you’ll see that this proposal didn’t happen. Why? Because it’s a stupid idea.

Look, subway station names have a critical function: they allow you to determine, with (hopefully) decent accuracy where you are and where you are going. Because you can’t really see much when you’re underground. Station names need to be descriptive, conveying at least the street or intersection it is beneath, or the neighbourhood or major tourist attraction it is near. Throwing out that convention to honour individuals, no matter how meritorious, is a gimmick that most transit riders will not appreciate in the years to come.

If you want to change the name of a subway station to honour Nelson Mandela, here’s my suggestion: change the name of the street it connects to. This is an honour that has been done in many centres (including Rue President Kennedy and Rue Rene Levesque in Montreal), and one which doesn’t complicate the map. And, really, who wouldn’t want to follow in the path of Nelson Mandela, rather than pay a quick visit to his station?

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