LRT train

The name for Waterloo Region’s planned rapid transit system has become a hot topic since three possibilities were revealed last week. Having the most fun are the people who vehemently oppose rapid transit especially light rail transit. No matter what name is selected, these folks are not going to change their opinion. If they ever do, it’ll be a result of seeing and experiencing the rapid transit vision for our future.

The name is meant to appeal the most to potential regular users so that is the perspective of this post. Feel free to take the official Waterloo Region online survey before I try to influence you!

Proposed names fall flat

The proposed names are arc, ion and trio. With all due respect to my friends at Quarry Communications, I believe that all three fall flat.

I have worked first hand on a branding project with Quarry. I know them and their process. Both are top notch. But in this case, I don’t agree with the result.

I also think the Region made a mistake with the process presenting three “finalists” for the name without formally soliciting public input. Then compounded it by presenting them as finalists and that the consultation is only to pick the preferred finalist–unless we manage to convince them that something else is better.

Trio is my least favourite. While it’s not supposed to refer to the three cities that is how it is being interpreted. Doing so leaves the townships out of the picture. It is supposed to refer to the trio of buses, iXpress and rapid transit. But the name is only for rapid transit so the name doesn’t fit what is being named which is only rapid transit (the aBRT/LRT combo).

Both arc and ion try too hard in my opinion. They are meant to connect to Waterloo Region as an important high tech hub. That may be a good strategy if the name was supposed to tell people outside of the Region about us but not if if is for people already living here. In fact, I think there is a disconnect from the broader reality of what Waterloo Region is today. While we are a high tech hub, we’re much more than just a high tech hub. If anything, we’ve been successful over the long term because of our the diversity of our economic sector. And who knows what the future holds? I also don’t think that those names have any connection to historic Waterloo County which is very much a part of our brand.

A name can make a difference

A name may not make any difference in the long run. The success of the service will be influenced much more by other factors.

But the right name can make a difference to how people think about rapid transit. I understand when Ottawa named their LRT the Confederation Line that it helped enhance the perception of the project. I think it helped to give people a sense of pride.

A name can catch on and become embraced over time such as iXpress has done but it’d be great if we could do as Ottawa has done and find one right out of the gate.

My preferred names for Waterloo Region’s rapid transit

I believe some variation on Grand is best. For example, The GRAND / The Grand Line / Grand Xpress . I don’t take credit for this name as I saw it on a Wonderful Waterloo thread but I immediately loved it.

It plays off of the Grand River and mimics how the river connects the major cities in Waterloo Region. As rivers play a historic role as backbones of community building and transportation there are other natural links. Grand resonates with the past, present and future of Waterloo Region.

My second choice–and originally my first idea-would be a variation of the Conestogo Line. It connects us to our historic use of Conestogo Wagons. The Expressway used to be known as the Conestoga Parkway and so it’d be fitting to transfer the name to the next major transportation project that will reshape our communities.

Other names that might work

I have seen some other names that kinda catch my fancy

  • KWiC / KWiCr – I love the play on the initials of the three major cities. While it leaves the townships out, if we’re going in that direction and where it will physically be, I think this is the way to go. A downside is that it doesn’t sound as rapid as ZUM which is the name of Brampton’s BRT.
  • Connex – I had a similar idea of calling it the Connector since that is a major function of the line. The x on the end gives it a contemporary/techy touch.
  • TiiiM (Transit infrastructure initiative in Motion) which I’d change to TiiiMe – Maybe I’m a sucker for the graphic version in today’s paper but I found myself liking this one. I prefer an e on the end so that it is pronounced “Time” as suggested by
  • The Mackenzie King Rail – Love the historic connection for one of our most successful native sons that has not yet been recognized enough.

Please share your thoughts on the officially proposed names, my proposed names and the others that caught my fancy in the comment section below. But be sure to take the official Region of Waterloo online survey.

But I’d also like to run my own poll on these names.

Please take my short rapid transit name poll!

Poll Results – January 21

Here are the results of my poll. Twenty people participated and they all chose to take the poll so it is far from scientific but I want to share the results as part of the overall naming conversation.

1. There is little enthusiasm for any of the officially proposed names

Only “Ion” had anyone who loved the name. It had 2. But it also had 15 people who wanted something else. The name with the most positive response was “arc” which 7 people said they could live with selecting it.

2. Grand Xpress the preferred option

Of the alternate names that I suggested, Grand Xpress had the greatest support when people were asked to select the one they liked the most. Thirteen people selected it. No other suggestion had more than 3 people prefer it. But at the same time, at least 3 people didn’t like it or any of the suggested names.

3. Grand Xpress had greatest positive response

When asked to rate how much they liked each name, Grand Xpress again had the best response. Seven people loved it and 5 could live with that choice. Next best was Connex that no one loved but had 10 people who thought it was an acceptable choice. KWiCr and TiiiM / TiiiME were both strongly panned.

4. Other names suggested

  • LRT
  • Conestoga – Grand Xpress
  • WRRT (pronounced “wert”
  • Lightening Sloth
  • Zïp! — with umlaut on i and an exclamation mark
  • WREX

Of these, the only one that I’d see being used is Zip! In fact, I think it’s kinda catchy and speaks to the core of the rapid transit brand. On the other hand, it’s a bit derivative of Brampton’s Zuum but maybe that’s ok.

5 thoughts on “Playing the Rapid Transit name game

    1. Thanks for your comment and the link Denis! I’m sure there are lessons to be learned from similar projects including not only Calgary but projects that had better results such as Vancouver.

  1. I’ll be honest, I’m still holding out for the Lightning Sloth. It’s not too fast, and not too slow. What it lacks in the heritage department it makes up for in originality, the ability to ward off marauding vikings, and the ability to settle the community’s differences about LRT. If you don’t like LRT, it’s a great name to say smugly when you’re talking about the money the city wasted. If you do, it’s something no other town has, complete with cute logo. Sloths are adorable, and lightning is awesome.

    Come to sunny Waterloo Region, and ride the Lightning Sloth. Oh yeah.

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