System avoids a 'cutesy-poo' moniker


In Pittsburgh, it's the "T." In Portland, Ore., the "MAX." Los Angeles simply calls it the "Blue Line."

In Baltimore, the new trolley system has been bestowed a far more cumbersome moniker, the "Central Light Rail Line."

Does this remind anyone of last year's dispute between Gov. William Donald "Camden Yards" Schaefer and Orioles owner Eli S. "Oriole Park" Jacobs? The result of that one was a merged name, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"This was not a compromise name," insisted Ronald J. Hartman, head of the Mass Transit Administration (MTA). "We thought about whether to give it a cutesy-poo name like MAX but we talked to people in places where they did that and found that people still ended up calling it the light rail."

Actually, the history of the Central Light Rail Line is just as colorless as it sounds.

It bears no relationship, for instance, to the fact that about one-third of the system runs along the former Northern Central Railway line along the Jones Falls.

Instead, the name came from planning documents that referred to north and south central corridors through the city, Mr. Hartman said.

The term "light rail" is commonly used in the transit industry to refer to the modernized version of the trolley, an electric train system that can run on its own right-of-way or mix with traffic.

The cars themselves are actually heavier than subway cars and the track is the standard gauge used by railroads.

The MTA considered calling it "Metro Light" but "we concluded that sounded too much like a beer," Mr. Hartman said.

Labeling it a trolley was ruled out because trolley seemed to connote an old-fashioned streetcar.

Mr. Hartman said he is open to renaming the system if a better title surfaces, but so far, the MTA has found that people seem to have accepted this one.

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