By Charlotte Prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff
In 2017, Kitchener transit users will ride on the Ion.
Regional council approved the rapid transit branding name, almost unanimously, at a committee meeting Tuesday.
But Cambridge councillor Claudette Millar, the lone holdout, blasted council for ignoring the public’s suggestions.
Members of the public had suggested more than 500 different names, but Ion was one of three provided by Quarry Integrated Communications, a firm that was hired to do branding work on the project.
“I find it insulting. We do this all the time. We have public input, but we always go back to the professionals — and it’s time we quit,” she said.
“I cannot believe out of 500 names there wasn’t a good one.”
The name Ion will be used for both the light rail transit system, which will run from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener, and for the bus rapid transit system, which will extend into Cambridge.
Kim Moser, manager of rapid transit community relations for the Region of Waterloo, outlined the process of the final name selection.
Quarry chose three names: Ion, Arc and Trio. Those were put together with 17 of the top names suggested by the public and the shortlist of 20 was run through a list of criteria.
Two final contenders emerged: Ion, suggested by Quarry, and The Wave, suggested by the public.
“What do you do when it’s a tie?” Moser said.
The region created a phone survey, testing the two names on 305 respondents.
Results of the survey indicated 48 per cent had a positive or somewhat positive reaction to Ion, while 40 per cent had a positive or somewhat positive reaction to The Wave.
“Ion it is!” said Coun. Sean Strickland, who heads the region’s rapid transit steering committee.
“We tested a name from the public — The Wave — and I think that’s been indicative of the process.”
The region is paying Quarry $75,000 for the process of recommending a brand name, and for creating a graphic design for the logo. The design, complete with chosen colours and fonts, is expected to come before regional council this summer.
Strickland said many people want the region to operate as a business would, and no business would undertake a large branding exercise without professional help.
“The name Ion has certainly grown on me,” said Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr.
But Zehr wondered why the region is not using The Ion as the brand, rather than just Ion.
“I think that’s the way the public will utilize the name,” he said.
Moser said the phone survey also suggests the $818-million rapid transit project will attract plenty of new riders.
Just 43 per cent of respondents said they currently use transit, but 71 per cent said they plan to use it in the future.
“I think that’s a good indication of success and bodes well for the future,” Moser said.
Interestingly, 12 per cent of those surveyed had never heard of a rapid transit service coming to the region.
The vote to approve the Ion name still needs to be ratified at a full council meeting.
• Means “going” in Greek
• An atom or molecule with an electrical charge
• Positive first impressions: clever, cool, energizing, futuristic, geeky in a good way
• Negative first impressions: cold, geeky, sterile, too techie, doesn’t indicate transit