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Why is Waterloo’s new LRT system named ION?

Why ION?.
Why ION?. Kevin Nielsen / Global News

After years of waiting, the ION LRT vehicles will finally come into service on Friday at noon.

While it is part of the Grand River Transit service, why was it given such a unique name rather than simply a route number or the King Street line?

On June 15, 2011, the LRT line was approved by Waterloo council.

READ MORE: Simon says to follow these rules when the ION trains start rolling through Kitchener and Waterloo

A short time later, the search began for a name, in part to avoid confusion.

“If people just called it a line one, they might think it was just another bus route,” Brendan Simon, a senior project manager with the Region of Waterloo, said.

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He points out that there were other issues in naming the LRT line. They could not simply just call it the King Street or Charles Street line as it goes over so many different roads.

WATCH: ION LRT system set to launch on June 21

ION LRT system set to launch on June 21
ION LRT system set to launch on June 21

“For example, in Toronto, they just switched to numbered lines, Simon said, so they have line 1, line 2, etc. Before that, they were called where they ran. The Yonge Line, University Line.”

“The problem we have is we are kind of in an area where there is no street that ION follows.”

He says they retained a consultant to help sort things out.

According to a staff report from 2013, Quarry Integrated Communications was retained to assist in finding a name for what would become ION.

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The company reviewed 4,000 comments from area residents about the service in hopes of narrowing the search. It also held workshops and met with local leaders in hopes of narrowing the focus.

It then determined a criteria for the names, and its focus turned toward the creative end of things.

Quarry generated 300 possible names before that was trimmed to the final 11 which were ARC, EO, ION, ITX, iXpress or IX, RIO, RUN, TRIO, VIVEO, The “W” and WiCK.

With the aid of others involved in the project and a regional committee, that list was soon trimmed to ARC, ION and TRIO.

READ MORE: Another collision between ION LRT vehicle and SUV in Kitchener

In January 2013, that list was released to the public for consultation with ION being the preferred choice.

Of course, that did not put an end to the name search.

After the first community consultation, there were 17 more names added to the original three for consideration. The new list included Blueline, Centreline, Connect, The Grand, iKWiC, Iron Horse, The Link, LRT, Pearl, Rapid, Region Express, Spark, TiiiM, Trion, The “W,” The Wave, and Zip.

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That list was eventually trimmed to ION and the Wave.

A phone survey was conducted and more consultation was undertaken and by April, the list had been narrowed to one three-letter word.

READ MORE: Cambridge council approves ION LRT route for second phase

Simon explained some of the reasons the LRT was eventually given its moniker.

“ION was basically chosen because it has a science connotation to it,” Simon said. “It means ‘going’ in Greek.”

“It also goes with a family of services so we have IExpress services. Ion Services.”