The Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT) is considering renaming several of the proposed stations in order to finalize construction plans. The proposal, first shared with partner government agency staff on January 14, 2016 and with the project’s community and business advisory committees in late January, will be considered by the Metropolitan Council on February 24th.
According to a document shared for the January 14th meeting, five stations along the line are proposed to be renamed to clarify location or remove potential duplication of station names. Those stations include Van White, Penn, Shady Oak, City West, and Golden Triangle. Once input is received from the advisory committees, the Metropolitan Council would approve of the station names. A similar process to evaluate station names on the Blue Line Extension, also known as the Bottineau LRT project, would likely start in April or May 2016.
What’s in a Name?
The Metropolitan Council’s Regional Transitway Guidelines provides agency staff on how to name transit stations:
“Transitway station names should be selected based on the criteria listed below. Station names will be selected by the Metropolitan Council with input from the lead agency and impacted communities.
- “The name should reflect local geography (major cross-street or landmark).
- “The name should be easy for the general public to recognize, particularly potential customers who are not familiar with the region and/or the corridor.
- “The name should be distinct from the names of other stations to the extent feasible so that the name does not create confusion for potential customers or emergency responders.
- “The name should be succinct and the use of two names for one station should be avoided.
- “When station naming rights are sold, the name must continue to have a clear link to a nearby landmark or regionally recognizable destination. If a station name is sold, the sale should be for a period of at least 20 years and the price should be based on market exposure.”
The January 14th document indicates that both Van White and Penn are duplicate station names with the Blue Line Extension. Van White is suggested to remain but with an added “Mem. Blvd.” to the end. Penn is suggested to be renamed Bryn Mawr, after the “nearest landmark, neighborhood.” Laura Baenen of the Southwest Project Office indicated that the duplicate names were addressed by selecting recognized place names. Shady Oak, City West, and Golden Triangle are suggested to be renamed to their access road name to better describe the location and aid in park and ride access. None of the streets are arterial.
Below is a list of the existing and proposed station names:
Initial feedback from city staff and policy makers was that Golden Triangle should remain as is and City West should perhaps incorporate the name “Crosstown” with the proposed name change. 21st Street was identified as an additional station that may warrant renaming. The other proposed station changes were generally supported.
Dave Lindahl, Economic Development Manager for the City of Eden Prairie, stated in an interview that city staff provided initial feedback on the suggested name changes and would have the opportunity to discuss the issue with the city council prior to the final station name recommendations. Golden Triangle, he said, is an established place name with strong local recognition, while City-West was less recognized and originated from a proposed real estate development project in the 1980s. City staff were open to the prospect of renaming the City West Station.
In a review of several transit systems that have had new stations constructed over the last decade, all referenced similar principles of recognition, conciseness, and distinction. The level of public engagement differs by agency and context. In contrast with the Metropolitan Council’s guidelines, other policies encourage conciseness versus a specific discouragement of multiple words. Renaming of stations in the systems reviewed revealed decisions to use a combination of place names and streets.
Sound Transit – Seattle, WA
Sound Transit’s Facility and Link System Naming Policy (Resolution No. R2012-02) established a process and criteria for naming its stations and facilities. The process involves staff evaluation, public input, and its board’s input and action. It established a schedule for when input should be received (30% design) and by when their board should select names (60% design). Criteria include:
- “Reflect the nature of the environment: neighborhoods, street names, landmarks, plus geographical locations”
- “Be brief and easy to read and remember”
- “Comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and requirements and be limited to 30 characters”
- “Avoid commercial references because they may change, prove confusing to the public and be costly to change”
- “Avoid similar names or words in existing facility names”
The policy also outlined how the system should be named, including destination and colors. It stated that early corridor planning should use clear language, such as calling a line “Lynnwood Extension” instead of the more wonky “North Corridor High Capacity Transit Project.”
In June 2015, the Sound Transit board established permanent names for its East Link project. East Link will connect the cities of Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond. The process involved substantial engagement of the public and cities, including staff attending local events to solicit ideas and opinions. As a result, six of 12 stations were renamed.
Metro – Los Angeles, CA
Metro, which provides transit service in the Los Angeles area, renamed five stations along its systems lines after requests for name changes were submitted. A Property Naming Policy from August 2003 (ibid) clarified the agency’s approach to station and property naming, similar to that of the other agencies surveyed.
Its policy also allows for stations to be named after deceased people who have “demonstrated unique and extraordinary service to public transportation in Los Angeles County.” Station names changed, generally selecting names more representative of their communities.
In the above case, staff indicated in their report that street and place names were used in some instances over concern over whether people would recognize just the place names. It was noted that changing station names has cost implications in the hundreds of thousands of dollars due to new signage in the station and throughout the system as well as audio recordings.
Metro’s 2003 policy references that in 1989, its predecessor agency renamed four of the five Metro Red Line stations, as during the planning process the agency had used street names for station names. Its board opted to use well-known station area destinations for the renamed stations, such as Union Station, Civic Center, Pershing Square, and Westlake/MacArthur Park. It stated that the fifth station did not have a well-known destination associated with it, so it was named 7th Street/Metro Center after the street and new transit center.
DART – Dallas, TX
DART system in Dallas uses either street, destination, or a combination of both. Their Transit Facility Naming Policy clarifies that renaming a station should benefit existing and future riders.
A DART representative interviewed for this article stated that the City of Richardson recently requested that the Bush Turnpike Station be renamed after a recent major redevelopment (CityLine) adjacent the station. For many years, the station primarily served a park and ride lot and an adjacent empty lot until the recent development project reshaped the area. In considering the request, staff were looking at whether the project is a landmark, had staying power as a name, and whether to include both a place name and a road name. When requests come to rename a station, staff indicated that the costs are generally borne by the requesting party. Given that the name change could occur at the same time as a planned service update, the additional costs generally would be limited to actual signage changes at the station.
RTD – Denver, CO
As transit lines around the country look for additional sources of revenue, some are looking at sponsorship that could lead agencies away from naming stations after geographic identifiers. RTD in Denver recently launched a Corporate Partnership Program that would allow sponsors to have naming rights at stations and/or transit lines. While unclear what specifically it will allow, the University of Colorado recently committed to a 5-year, $5 million partnership where it christened the soon-to-open A Line between Union Station and Denver International Airport and the Flatiron Flyer BRT line from Union Station to Boulder as “University of Colorado A Line and Flatiron Flyer.” While it does not appear that any stations have been renamed, the new program allows for a departure from conventional naming practices.
The project office began meeting with stakeholders on January 14th and expect to take an action item to its Corridor Management Committee for a recommendation on February 3rd. That recommendation would be considered by the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Committee on February 8th with a final Metropolitan Council action on February 24th.
The project office will not do an “open call for public input,” said Baenen, but will instead rely on public input provided by the Community Advisory Committee and Business Advisory Committee that are made up of members from the surrounding communities. This approach, Baenen stated, is in compliance with Metropolitan Council guidelines.
Station names serve multiple purposes and are subjective. The station naming process should include more public outreach and provide more clarity from project office staff on why they believe the proposed names are the most appropriate names for the station.
While guidelines provide direction on what principles should be considered, it’s an exercise that should benefit from broad input. Station names represent both geographic location and the places that surround the station. Opinions on place identity and place brands depend on who is rendering the opinion.
More clarity should be provided on why street names appear prioritized over place names or a combination of both. For example, why is 21st Street used over Kenwood, which is a much more recognized place?
Why is West Lake staying as is, when West Lake is a road that transitions to Minnetonka Boulevard nearby and there is an existing Lake Street Station on the Blue Line and a future Lake Street station on the Orange Line? Alternatives, like West Calhoun, have been suggested in the past as they better represent the community than a street. Even the nearby intersection name of “Excelsior/Lake” would be more descriptive.
How is keeping Van White not going to confuse future riders on the Blue Line Extension when a station will be located on the same street, even if it is named something else? Would incorporating somewhat known place names, like Bassett Creek Valley or Linden Yards, reduce future confusion? Would it aid the place branding of the station area and help build momentum for the area’s planned redevelopment?
The Metropolitan Council should hold off on renaming the stations until a more robust public engagement and more thorough analysis can be completed.