On Monday, February 14, Premier Doug Ford, Transportation Minister Carolyn Mulroney, and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie attended a photo-op at Cooksville GO Station to announce a new name for a transit project. With former mayor Hazel McCallion in attendance (who was celebrating her 101th birthday), it was no secret what the new name was going to be.
It was disappointing that the Hurontario LRT, a provincially-funded transit project operating within Brampton and Mississauga and intended to be part of a regional transportation network, would be named for a divisive former mayor of only one of the two cities the Hurontario LRT is supposed to directly benefit.
In North America, and around the world, transit lines and stations are named (with a few misguided exceptions) to reflect the geography of the route it represents and to provide optimal wayfinding, especially to visitors and people new to transit. In Greater Toronto, bus, streetcar, commuter rail and subway routes are named based on the major street they run on (the 501 Queen Streetcar or Line 4 Sheppard), the neighbourhood they serve (the 56 Leaside bus) or the destination it runs to (the GO Milton Line or 900 Airport Express).
Even new projects follow these conventions. The Crosstown LRT, which operates under and along Eglinton Avenue, is a crosstown route across the middle of the city. Even the Ontario Line partially gets its name from its two end points (Exhibition Place/Ontario Place and Ontario Science Centre). The Hurontario LRT reflected the name of the main street it operates along, even if it changes its name briefly though central Brampton.
The “Hazel McCallion Line” does not accomplish any of these goals.
Given Peel Region’s diverse population of over 1.4 million residents, it is also disappointing that a major project intended to unite the region is named for an affluent white public figure that already has two libraries, a public school and a college campus already bearing her name.
Furthermore, McCallion’s legacy as a longtime mayor of Mississauga is tarnished by racist statements after visiting a local hospital in 2001, two conflict of interest scandals, her recent involvement with a troubled for-profit long term care provider, and by land use policies that kept taxes low for decades, but did little to ensure a financially or environmentally sustainable future for the city.
I suspect Premier Ford wanted to celebrate a political ally a few months before the next provincial election, but naming the Hurontario LRT after Hazel McCallion sends the wrong message.
Post script: The Hurontario Line may not be the only Metrolinx transit facility that will see its name change. In a MERX posting dated February 15, 2022, Metrolinx is looking for Expressions of Interest for station naming rights opportunities for at least four existing GO Transit rail stations. The summary is quoted below:
Expression of Interest
Expression of Interest No. RFI-2021-CCMX-097
Metrolinx is accepting Expressions of Interest for Station Naming Rights Opportunity.
Metrolinx is an agency of the Government of Ontario, overseeing GO Transit, PRESTO, and UP Express. We are embarking on a massive transformation of the GO Rail network – the backbone of regional rapid transit in the region – to give customers a faster, more convenient way to connect with the things that matter.
Metrolinx is seeking proposals from interested parties in any category for the Station Naming Rights Opportunity at the following stations:
Whitby GO Station
Exhibition GO Station
Clarkson GO Station
Oakville GO Station
Metrolinx will consider proposals for other stations not listed here at the request of interested parties.
For more information about the GO Transit network and stations, please visit www.gotransit.com. We are committed to working together to create a partnership that will meet shared objectives, such as increase revenue, increase market share for our partners and provide a positive customer experience on public transit.
All four stations listed are on the Lakeshore Line, the backbone of the GO Transit rail network. Exhibition GO could be especially attractive for renaming, as it will become a major hub with the future connection to the Ontario Line and local TTC services. It is also worth noting that Metrolinx will entertain proposals for additional stations in the bid process.
It is hard to blame Metrolinx for these specific transit naming decisions; it is very likely that the Ford government demanded the McCallion Line and is pushing for the sell-off of naming rights. But it is ironic that after hiring consultants and going though a complex naming process for the Crosstown LRT, that previously held principles are quickly abandoned at the whim of Metrolinx’s superiors.