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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The GTTA is Now Metrolinx

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The Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (or GTTA) has come up with a new marketing name and a new website. The new name is Metrolinx. The name and website are scheduled to be launched tomorrow, December 4, but the site is already live. The news release for tomorrow’s launch says that the GTTA will also release a “a discussion paper on transportation trends and outlooks” as well as public consultations on regional transit planning.

Note that Metrolinx is not to be confused with Metrolink (Los Angeles, Manchester, St. Louis or Halifax) nor is it to be confused with the various “Lynx” transit systems such as those in Charlotte or Orlando.

While I think the GTTA made the correct decision to create a new identity (I sometimes get confused between the GTTA and the GTAA, the airport authority), I find the name forced and unimaginative, and very 1995. Metrolinx still lacks a logo. One example that I like is Vancouver’s regional transportation agency, Translink, which has a simple, yet elegant name and logo. I also find the banner image of the website a bit funny, as apparently, the GTA has annexed English villages along with Mississauga and Scarborough City Halls the website developers used Google image searches for Pickering and Brampton, but got pictures of the English villages of the same names instead of the 905 suburban cities.

Bad websites and names aside, the GTAA GTTA has begun some work, including the identification of “quick-win” projects for regional transit, such as signal upgrades for the Yonge-University-Spadina subway, GO Transit rail corridor improvements, and bus services in the suburban 905 municipalities. It has also developed the Presto card, which so far will not offer many of the potential benefits of a transit Smart Card or a new fare structure.

Regional transit planning and coordination is necessary for a growing urban region with increasing congestion and little yet in the way of major infrastructure improvments. To its credit, the GTTA just published an interesting document called Towards Sustainable Transportation [PDF] that discusses goals for the agency, sets out an extensive consultation plan, and has some interesting transit statistics and ideas from other cities that could be adapted to the GTA. Particuarly interesting is a graph on page 13 of the report that shows the few kilometres of expansion of rail-based transit in the past two decades.

It has yet to be seen if a new flashy name and transit plan will bring about any real gains in building a proper regional transit network from the multitude of agencies and fare systems we have now. But with the promise of major capital spending by the province, including Transit City, the GTA may be finally be turning a corner.

But I still don’t like the new name.



  1. I was excited when i read that they were going to come up with a new name but metrolinx kinda killed it….

  2. From a technical standpoint, the Web site is an atrocity. But it will seem just fine inside MetroLinx offices, which surely is all that counts.

  3. Welcome to Anywhere, USA.

    I wish I could better articulate how disappointed I am in this boring, generic name.

  4. What an awful name…

    Our tax dollars at work….

    New GO lines: O

    New Subway lines: 0

    Terrible new name that means nothing and relates to nothing..: (fill in mystery $ amount here)

  5. My lord, did the TTC not tell the GTTA that they would be raked over the coals by the very people who are its biggest supporters if they didn’t get this thing right?

    We know Rob MacIsaac and Co mean well at the GTTA, but who is giving them marketing advice? Their engineers?

  6. The best part about the poor website is someone over at Urban Toronto Forum found that this image:

    Was likely found through a very hastily done Google Search, by typing in “Brampton”. The trouble is, they got the wrong Brampton – the picture shows the village of Brampton in Cumbria, England.

  7. Sean, after you write that you get confused between the GTTA and GTAA, you write GTAA when you mean GTTA. Aren’t initialisms fun?

  8. DJ: I know! That’s why I think a new name was a good idea. Just not this name.

    And Brampton’s not the only place they got wrong. Is this Pickering, Ontario, or is it Pickering, North Yorkshire?

    (The original image showed the village of Pickering, England, but the bright mindz at Metrolinx have since fixxd it. I later found a cached copy and restored it)

  9. Sean, I wish that picture was Pickering, Ontario. It looks nicer than anything that actually exists there.

  10. Didn’t “Metro” disappear 10 years ago already? Nobody really thinks of Metro anymore … and saying that it has to do with the subway as a “metro” doesn’t help either because it’s never been called that.

    It’s as if they were looking for something that sounded like Translink but this was the best they could come up with.

    And the “linx” part … reminds me of Bank of Montreal’s 1990s “mbanx” brand, that disappeared without fanfare several years ago.

    So yes, this name would have been great in 1995!

  11. well apparently I don’t know how to link properly. Sorry about that…Brampton in the UK sounds like a nice little town though. The people who run their website are probably wondering why all of a sudden there’s all this Toronto traffic to their site. Perhaps Metrolinx is also about linking obscure towns overseas to the GTA and its people? Just think of the possibilities.

    Anyways, at least they got the right Toronto.

  12. Not exactly… The picture of the skyline includes several not-yet-built towers and is quite obviously stolen from the same google image searches that yielded their other results.

  13. Looks like they fixed the site (finally) to remove the images of the English versions of Pickering and Brampton. Probably because as I type, this is the top search result for “Metrolinx” in Google.

    I’ve saved images of the web pages for posterity, however.

  14. It took me several minutes to figure out that “ON Y VA” was French. I don’t know if it’s because I’m slow this morning, or because it’s the only French on the page.

    Regardless… um… I’ll wait and see how this develops.

  15. Here is a nice rundown of some regional agency names in the United States. Bonus points if you can name the city that goes with each of these (some of them are multiples):

    Metro . MBTA . MTA . MTAMD . LACMTA . SEPTA . WMATA . RTA . RTC . RTD . UTA . JTA . VTA . VIA . CATS . COTA . MTS . MATA . MARTA . MCTS . BART . HART . DART . DARTA . Tri-Met . Tri-County . Metro Transit . Sound Transit . Capital Metro . Sun Metro . Valley Metro . IndyGo

    Make your own comparisons, but I’m still wiping my breakfast off the screen after reading “metrolinx”.

  16. Bad public service websites are particularly offensive to me and this is such a terrible example.
    It’s surprising to see something so bad in 2007, and this was created new!

    I think I’m going to be sick.

    This site should be taken down to prevent any further embarrassment to all involved who should already be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

  17. I see they didn’t bother updating the French version of the site at all. The “French” link still goes to the old version of the site, which doesn’t link to the English.

  18. It’s bad enough that the website design is awful, but the content is equally horrible. Here is one example:

    “Linking major centres across the region, systems like the RER in Paris and MTA express trains in New York City offer fast, convenient rail service outside the urban core.”

    Anyone who thinks that the A train is the same thing as an RER-type service should not be working for a transit agency.

  19. I also had some trouble with “ON Y VA”.
    Since it’s in all-caps and all words are two letters long or shorter it looks like some common abbreviations.
    ON obviously meant Ontario, I assumed Y meant York and that VA was Vaughan. It seemed a rather incomplete list, but I did appreciate the attempt to provide some description of the location they’re serving. Of course it could have been done dramatically better by choosing a less generic name.

    I might have recognized it as French if it related in any way to their English slogan. But even then it would still be inconsistent with the complete separation of French and English content on the rest of the site.

    Also “Government” is misspelled on the front page.

    This is hardly an auspicious start.

  20. Man, if they can’t get a simple web site and name right what are the chances for them to fight gridlock in the GTA? We are all doomed! DOOMED I tell ya!!!!!!

  21. You can’t just do an image search on Google and use whatever images it returns on a commercial web site, it’s not a stock image site!

    If whoever did these banners had obtained permission to use them on the site you would imagine they would have realised at some point during the process that they were English.

    As a photographer and a web designer that pisses me off. I’m going to see if I can find the source of other images they use on the site and find out if they have permission to use them.

  22. Details can make a difference eh?
    I’m hoping they’ll make a difference on the waterfront transport issues as the 20% surge in GO capacity from longer trains arriving soon will take away the dire need for both the FSE and the WWLRT – and perhaps we can redirect that $800M+ towards smarter projects.

  23. The 20% increase in capacity will allow the people crushed in the doorways of the existing cars to be crushed in the doorways of the 20% extra cars. Those trains will still be packed.

  24. What a terrible name and site.

    Maybe they should have called it something like





    Total Mega Transit Network.


  25. That name is awful.

    It sounds like they are trying to be hip, and appeal to younger people. Why not just Metrolink, or something?

  26. I like Total Mega Transit Network myself.

  27. The best “link” brand that comes to mind is London’s Silverlink overland intracity passenger service. The GTTA’s rebranding has really dated its creators (both in the use of “Metro” and “linx”).

    I wish organizations like this could forget all the Microsoft-like branding gimmicks of smiling people and just present their information cleanly and clearly, so we know who they are, what they do, and what they plan to do.

    I want to see maps, phasing strategies, and timelines, not people floating on random backdrops.

    Transport for London really does it proper:
    Yes its a lot to live up to, but we need a lot more if Metrolinx is to be taken seriously.

    I think all the criticism is proof that we all want this to be something great.

  28. If they were just taking photos from google image search do you suppose the photographers were paid or even cited!? It certainly doesn’t look like anyone got any credit — especially with Brampton England coming up. As a person who publishes a lot of images online I’m quite annoyed to see this kind of carelessness.

  29. Woeful. I know it’s not necessarily indicative of their ability to plan a proper regional transportation network, but if the quality of that website is any indication, I’ve been expecting waaaaay too much from the GTTA (I will NEVER call it Metrolinx).

  30. One thing I do notice is that the list of the GTTA oops Metrolinx advisory committee is now up on their site. I recognize one bona fide name there as someone who has worked on the Waterfront transit EA groups with me, but the rest look like the usual corporate/political cheerleaders, not people who will take a hard look at whatever might be proposed.

    I understand that although I was considered for this position, I wasn’t seen as being “supportive enough”.

    Oh well … independence has its benefits even if I don’t get the free sandwiches.


  31. Love that MoveOntario 2020 “QuickWin” name. This is a project that will neither be implemented quickly, nor have we won anything (we should have had these investments 20 years ago).

    Also, where is the announcement for an eletrified Lakeshore GO service that I was looking forward to? Has that dropped off the map?

  32. If we’re to be region and mission-specific then we should re-name them “SOUTH”, or “Southern Ontario Universal Transit Hoax”. In other words, my GTA transit hopes just really ‘went south’!

  33. I have to say I was really expecting something much better from the GTTA in their new ‘brand’ – I guess my hopes were too high. Honestly, what a terrible name.
    -As many here have mentioned, it’s already dated and 1990s-esque. Just imagine how bad it will sound in 10 years.
    -It says nothing about Toronto, especially because nobody has called it ‘metro’ since Metro was disbanded nearly a decade ago
    -It doesn’t work in French, which in and of itself doesn’t matter except for the fact that the agency is officially supposed to be bilingual
    -It’s unoriginal, and frankly sounds like some generic American transit agency (there are a number with very similar names)

    At this point the only people who are familiar with the name are bloggers, transit geeks, and the GTTA itself. In other words, it isn’t too late to correct this terrible mistake.

    In the spirit of Toronto citizen activism, I smell a public competition for a new name and logo. And this is where you pick up, bloggers……

  34. (I should add that I have nothing but respect for the daunting task that the GTTA faces, and I honestly think that they’re working really hard to put the whole thing together. The first true test of whether they can epitomise a new-era for transport planning and public participation will be if they are willing to go back to the drawing board and bring the public on board with a better brand).

  35. ^David> Me thinks you are telepathic re: you’re last line of first post. More on this soon…..

    Indeed, these criticisms are confined to the Website and rebrand, not the actual work of the GTTA (ahem), both of which were likely farmed out, at some enormous cost, to firms that somehow manage to stay in business and get contracts like this despite being …. incompetent.

    In fact, in the new Spacing, we have a nice Q & A with Rob MacIsaac (pg 15)

  36. Since animals seem to be a theme with transit agencies, why not just call this one “Cygnus” and use a Canada Goose as the mascot. Local, original not bad.

    And that way if it just ends up moving groups (or flocks, if you will) of people great distances; or hanging around producing vast quantities of crap, the logo will remain appropriate.

    There, that’s my rebranding strategy.

  37. And Canada Geese go ‘SOUTH’ for the winter. Therefore I’m ‘on-board’ with your proposal.

  38. Now that the website is officially launched, it lookz like Metrolinx haz been busy replacing their banner imagez to remove the questionable use of Google Image search pictures – for example, the future Toronto skyline image rendered by a member of Urban Toronto Forum has been replaced.

  39. This from the same government that gave us 3 men in a hot tub logo… who’s surprised by this?

    I was glad to see the end of “metro” as a word in the GTA, but alas it’s returned. Every burg over half a million calls itself metro. How dumb is that.

    And for those that want an animal logo here’s a few “dead” animal logos to consider:
    -Canada Goose, Canadian Pacific, later Canadian Airlines, now part of Air Canada pooping all over the place;
    -Beavers, several including Bell Canada nauseating rodents, American owned Hudson’s Bay Company and the CPR cutting across the middle of the city and being a PITA as far as GO Trains are concerned;
    RBC the bank formerly known as Royal Bank with the lions that change direction depending upon which pocket they’re picking.

    To name but a few.

    I say we rename it to MetroStnyx and have something appropriate like a big frozen turd as a logo! That is what anyone waiting for transit improvements will feel like with this lot running the show!

  40. Other than the new name & website and Presto (another bad name), am I the only one impressed with the GTTA and its “quick win” projects so far?

  41. Hello everyone, from Longtown NEAR Brampton, England UK. Brampton UK is a wonderful little town, full of charm and lovely people.. probably so unlike the monster towns of Toronto etc..

    Remember where you all originated from.. We’re all still here. Best regards..

    Jan & Cher

    PS: ‘Metrolinx’ is NOT a proper name. It’s a name given to an inanimate object. You need a name with a decent identity..

    How about ‘The Dalesman’..

  42. The weird thing about the whole branding exercise is that Toronto already has a regional transit brand: GO Transit. I know Metrolinx is bigger than that (eventually, GO is supposed to become one of its subsidiaries) but surely expanding the existing brand would have been easier than creating a whole new one. Most people don’t care and don’t need to know that legally they’re separate agencies right now.

  43. Hinted at earlier perhaps in Vanner’s post – calling it Metrostinkz – moreso if they flock up, and the push is to push money to burbs, and parasite off the core. Or keep parasiting off the core – in general.

  44. First, Transit Toronto has a good round up of some of the other work the GTTA is doing.

    And to Jan F:

    Large and small towns in the Toronto area are also full of lovely people (though you suggest otherwise) and a whole lot of of them do not “originate” from anywhere near where you are, and we think that’s just fine.

  45. Yes, Hamish, how dare they spend money on transit in the suburbs where, you know, investment is actually needed to get people out of their cars.

    But yeah, somebody should make an FOI request to see how much money they gave a branding consultant to come up with this gem.

  46. This whole launch is an absolutely utter embarrassment and is a shamefully dissapointing way to launch this initiative. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. Whoever developed this website should be fired. And yes, the name, in a word, sucks.

  47. p.s. For the record, “Jan F”, we did not all “originate” from the UK as many arrogant Brits pompously assume.

    “Best regards”,


  48. The GTTA has done some good work, and that PDF vision document linked to in the post is rather interesting.

    But if the GTTA is to be taken seriously, they need to rethink their name. I agree, it sounds too 90s, like how every second thing was branded as “extreme” or “xtreme”, where the word lost all meaning. Also, they need to come up with a usable website designed by people who know where places like Brampton are and without the smiling people. Why not show some transit in the header?

  49. Hey Jan, I fortunately didn’t originate from the U.K. (as you can tell from my Latin name). As a matter of fact I don’t think I know anybody who originated from the U.K. around here… As for English lovely towns, I have to say I am not so sure about that, there are many pleasant communities in Ontario with wonderful people who don’t have the habit of binge drinking (due to a national football team that sucks) and fighting on the streets after the local pub shuts down.
    But I still don’t know why we have the UK’s Queen who heads a dysfunctional family as our representative. That is definitely among the top 10 worst things about Canada…

  50. Not sure what got Jan’s knickers in a knot anyway — no one said anything nasty about the original Brampton before Jan’s comment.

    About the contest: I’m guessing that part of what got the GTTA into this mess was that they wanted to avoid “Toronto” in the name (because their mandate includes Hamilton) and so they had to find some generic term where the .com and/or .ca was available. The best-sounding name could easily be one they can’t actually use, unfortunately.

  51. Nowhere on the site, as far as I can tell, is there a search function. So helpful.

    Also, in the PDF file, there are exactly two mentions of the word “airport”, neither of which finish the sentence “improved travel between downtown and”.

  52. Why didn’t the GTTA (metrolinx) just assume the GO TRANSIT name?

    It is a unique name that cannot be confused, and also GO TRANSIT is already well known. Then the GTTA could have easly used it. If they want to avoid confusion thats the way to go, not metrolinx.