So, what’s in a name?
The Arizona Rail Passenger Association has long suggested changes to what they feel can be confusing or unclear station names. What they would like is for METRO to have sensible station names for use with maps, signage and audible alerts on the trains. While many people may not give this topic a ton of thought, others feel it is worth discussing.
Our first topic is what some people at the ARPA call the long, confusing and downright improper use of the METRO station names which they feel can be a detriment to the riders experience.
“Stations need proper names to establish a sense of place, foster community pride, and make the system easy to talk about.” – ARPA
These are suggested ( by the ARPA ) names for the stations followed by their current names:
- Bethany / Chris-Town – Montebello & 19th Avenue
- 19th Ave & Camelback – No change suggested yet. The area is in transition.
- Melrose – 7th Ave & Camelback
- Uptown – Central & Camelback
- Central High – Campbell & Central
- Indian School – Indian School & Central
- Park Central – Osborn & Central
- Midtown – Thomas & Central
- Heard Museum – Encanto & Central
- Library – McDowell & Central
- Cathedral – Roosevelt & Central
- Central Station – Van Buren & Central & 1st Avenue
- City Hall – Jefferson Street and Central Avenue and Washington Street and First Avenue
- Convention Center – 3d Street and Washington and 3d Street and Jefferson
- Eastlake / 12th Street – 12th St. & Washington and 12th St. & Jefferson
- 24th Street – 24th St. & Washington and 24th St. & Jefferson
- GateWay – 38th St. & Washington & Jefferson
- Airport – 44th St. & Washington & Jefferson
- Papago Park – Priest Drive & Washington
- Mill – Mill Ave & 3d Street
- Sun Devil – Veterans Way & College
- University – University Drive & Rural Road
- Dorsey – Dorsey & Apache
- McClintock – McClintock & Apache
- Smith-Martin – Smith-Martin & Apache Boulevard
- Loop 101-Price – Price-101 Freeway & Apache
- Dobson – Sycamore & Main
So, do you think the names are a big deal? Obviously, changing the station names and the signage, etc. would cost money and we have heard METRO say, many times, that money doesn’t exactly grow on trees. Is it too late to try and right the ship a little bit going forward and looking at the Mesa light rail stations? Check out the photo below with some suggestions for the upcoming Mesa extension.
The second topic has to do with what to call the trains. The ARPA wants to know… Do you ride the light rail? Do you ride the METRO? Do you ride a train or a trolley? Do you care what it is called? “Technically” speaking, they say you don’t ride a light rail. Here’s what I have heard from them:
“The vehicle is a trolley (or train, or tram) not a rail!
Do you ride the street? No, you ride the bus.
Do you board the river? No, you board the boat.
Do you ride the runway? No, you ride the airplane.
Same with trains. Otherwise language makes no sense.”
The photo below try’s to make the point a little more clearly:
Photos by Flickr user wlindley
So, many people, including METRO, say they "ride the light rail" – Does that make sense? Or is it important to note that the trolley rides on the rail and we ride on the trolley?
Hey, I don’t claim to have all of the answers, I’m just a geek that likes to blog… What the heck do YOU think?
Re: Station Names. I’d much prefer that, unless the location is better described by its surrounding establishment(s) than the street names, that the stations be named by street intersection followed by a subheading for the area. A street intersection is unambiguous in Phoenix and can be easily mapped on a GPS or on a paper map. Sun Devil Stadium, Christown Mall and Sky Harbor are the three contenders that I can think of where naming them by a place name rather than an intersection is more appropriate, although I agree that a lot of the station names you give would make excellent subheadings. A visitor can quickly reference a map to determine where Thomas and Central is, but “Midtown” is amorphous and requires a multi-step process.
Cost-wise, when you modify names by adding subheadings, you don’t need to immediately change all signs – you can roll them out as you phase in up-to-date maps and damaged/worn signs, since your original station names are still accurate and match your maps, publications and audible announcements. Simply adding names makes the cost of the change nearly zero – except for recording new audible announcements, you would eventually have to replace worn-out signage and re-print new transit books regardless.
The only concern with adding subheadings is not to get too ambitious. LA suffers from “7th Street/Figeruoa/Metro Center/Harbor Transitway/Julian Dixon Station.” And that’s one of their most important stations, with 3 rail lines living there today and a 4th one coming in soon once the Metro Expo line opens, not to mention the Harbor Transitway busses upstairs. There is a line; that definitely crosses it. Everybody just calls it Metro Center and I think Metro has begun scaling that name down substantially.
Note that, unless the line runs in the freeway a la much of Los Angeles’s Metro Green Line, naming a station for a freeway is a bad idea; transit users become highly familiar with the street grid but are less familiar with the freeway system, particularly when they don’t drive, as freeways rarely carry transit, and even when they do carry commuter services such as Rapids in Phoenix, you don’t need to know the full route of the freeway, just the locations at which your Rapid begin and end.
Also agree that the Sycamore station should’ve been named Dobson from the start.
Rail Life says
Aaron, thanks so much for the great response. Maybe it would be fun to do a “name that station” contest. 🙂
Station names should be of things we’re proud of. Not streets. Unless we’re proud of those particular streets.
Rail Life says
Derek, that does make sense. I think a lot of cities do it that way, not sure why it isn’t done here as much.
Thanks for stopping by…
David Bickford says
Mixed feelings about the station names. Ones named for landmarks or neighborhoods might help foster a sense of place, but they’re also less clear than street names. I’d suggest starting by simply naming each station after one street, not two: Montebello, 19th Ave, 7th Ave, Camelback, Campbell, Indian School, etc.
As for what we call the mode of transit, I’d hate to hear people say they’re riding a trolley. That would play right into the hands of forces who campaigned against light rail in 2004 with the phrase “trolley folly.” “The train” seems the best word, although I’ve heard plenty of people in other cities say they went someplace “by rail.”
Regardless, my real pet peeves are the following:
1) Use of the phrase “light rail” as a count noun rather than a mass noun. Example: “We need a light rail in Scottsdale.”
2) Putting the emphasis on “light” instead of “rail.” LIGHT rail sounds like a rail made of light or maybe a holographic train. Light RAIL more accurately conveys the idea of rail transit with light infrastructure.