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Closing the circle on names

By Bob Vrbanac

The Region of Waterloo held the last of their public consultation centres on branding for its new rapid transit system this week in Kitchener, and from a session I attended earlier, I can tell you people are very interested in naming the new service.

The majority of them just aren’t interested in choosing any of the names that have been provided so far — Ion, Arc or Trio.

Those were the names Quarry Integrated Communications came up with after the region paid the local company $75,000 for branding, naming and logo design on the project.

All of those names are meant to reflect a region positioning itself as one of the knowledge capitals of Canada. They’re meant to suggest we’re moving forward and the technology that is driving that change.

But they are all strangely  cold and clinical. The names seem like something grown in a test tube rather than coming from the people, history and presumptive future of this region.

The fact that they need to be explained in such detail also suggests there is a little too much work being done to make those choices stick.

A common complaint of I’ve heard during the process is that the online and in-person survey doesn’t allow for “none of the above” as a legitimate response.

I can understand why regional transit officials didn’t want to put the naming out to the public first. The number of smart-alecky comments made about the LRT are endless, although you have to applaud some of the critics for their creativity.

But it’s not constructive, and if you’re not going to get on board with the process, you need to get out of the way.

But even the people who have a lot of goodwill towards the project are expressing some frustration that more organic names or grassroots submissions aren’t getting the same consideration.

Most of the people attending the public consultation centre I did had their own ideas as to what to brand the LRT. They spent the majority of their time filling out that portion of the survey where they were able to suggest their own vision. I’m assuming many of the 500 submissions made online have done the same thing.

And most are offering well thought-out arguments and passionate visions of what they want this service to be in the future. They want to take ownership of it and would be vocal defenders of an idea they believe in.

The ultimate decision is up to regional council, but I’d suggest a wider selection of names, or the circle of critics might grow bigger.

And the LRT needs all the public buy-in it can get when picking a name.

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