Letter: Toronto’s subway station names are a total nightmare

Museum station, Toronto. Image: Tom Page/Flickr/creative commons.

Editor’s note: We haven’t published a good letter in a while, but luckily here’s one now. In the past we’ve often delved into the question of how cities name their metro stations. Last week, our research into this important matter generated this response from Canada.

Dear CityMetric,

I happened across some of your articles on metro station names, and thought you might be interested in, or more likely recoil in horror from, the map of the Toronto subway system.

The Toronto subway lines run predominantly under a single street for most of their length. The Eastern branch of line 1 runs under Yonge Street, while line 2 runs entirely under Bloor Street from Castle Frank westwards and under Danforth Avenue from Broadview to Main Street.  The stations are then almost all named after the cross streets. 

The Toronto Subway map. Click to expand. Image: TTC.

While this was probably fine when the Yonge Street branch of line 1 was the only line, it now means we have horrors like three stations with variations on “Lawrence” despite Lawrence East being 12km from Lawrence and another 4km from Lawrence West. And yes, we have a station named after a numbered highway.

Even the Toronto Transit Commission seem to be belatedly realising this might be a problem with the new light rail line running under/along Eglinton Avenue. It’s named the stops at Victoria Park Avenue and Warden Road after ther nearby roads – “O'Connor” and “Hakimi Lebovic” respectively. 

Best regards,

Dr Alan Jackson

Centre for Planetary Sciences

University of Toronto



There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.

In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.