Earlier this week, Ottawa's Transit Commission voted to accept a list of recommended station names for the Confederation Line light-rail system. There wasn't much contention over the majority, with serious debate on just two of them: Tremblay Station, which is near the VIA Rail station, and Pimisi Station, a name recommended by the Algonquin Nation which means "eel" in Algonquin.
The discussion around Pimisi dealt with the fact that it's geographically irrelevant to the station's actual location. Other station names were passed through public consultation for their effectiveness as way-points and geographic markers that make it easier for people to know what stop they're to disembark at.
Councillor Rainer Bloess was the lone transit commissioner who voted against Pimisi. His comments, via the Ottawa Citizen, had to do with utility of the choice:
“It really doesn’t do anything for the Confederation Line,” observed Innes Coun. Rainer Bloess, the one transit commissioner to vote against the name. Victoria Island in the river, the heart of aboriginal presence in the capital, is probably due to be renamed, Bloess said, suggesting the Pimisi label might be more appropriate there.Meanwhile, the Ottawa Sun published an editorial that called the name-change "ridiculous," pulling no punches in their criticism of the decision:
Get creative but don't undo the common sense that goes with geographic locations. It just doesn't make sense to name a key station on an expensive LRT line something so unfamiliar to users.There's validity to the spirit of this concern, of course; geographically-based station names makes sense. They help regular and casual users orient themselves, and make it simple for tourists to use the system.
I'm just not sure "LeBreton" is significantly more relevant than Pimisi as a station name. Just because we currently know the station as LeBreton (and the area as LeBreton Flats) doesn't mean it's got special value; it's simply the name we've used historically. It's not as relevant as, say, Parliament (a signifier of the destination nearby) or Rideau (denoting a major street and shopping centre).
When transit users get off at LeBreton, the flats themselves are not their destination except for a brief few weeks during Bluesfest. People who get off their more than likely one of the following: Local residents who'll manage under either name; public servants heading to Gatineau who'll manage under either name; or people headed to the Canadian War Museum for whom the name LeBreton helps no more than Pimisi will.
I'd probably feel differently on this topic if it was a switch being made at a random time, but the name-change is happening as a component of a much more significant change: The establishment of a radically altered transit system. If riders aren't overwhelmed by the change to light-rail transit, then I think they'll manage through the short-term adjustment of referring to a station as something new. Before long, Pimisi will be as recognizable a destination name as LeBreton is today.
I'm sure not everyone agrees with me, though. What do readers think of the name change, and the adjustment that it will necessitate?