Another stupid name for a metro station

Do our bureaucrats understand anything about human linguistic and cognitive behaviour? From the way some future metro stations are to named, it doesn’t look so. Full essay.

26 Responses to “Another stupid name for a metro station”

  1. 1 jonathan 18 June 2009 at 20:03

    Mr Tan Kah Kee was the founder of the former Chinese High, which is situated just next to the station. But of course, most people wouldn’t know unless they actually went to that school.

    Oh, “Serene” wouldn’t have been accepted because one of the naming rules was that stations could not be named after existing commercial or residential or public buildings. What a pity, because it’d have been so much easier for people to locate the stations if associated with well-known buildings in the area.

  2. 2 abhtg 18 June 2009 at 20:24

    I’m inclined to think that you’re picking a few too many nits here. Personally I am grateful that the station names weren’t just invented on the spot: there’s “one-north”, Fusionopolis, hub this and portal that. The Downtown line could very well have been the line. Marina Bay could be Synergy@2013, or whenever the Downtown line is going to open.

  3. 3 tkl 18 June 2009 at 21:51

    Tan Kah Kee founded the Chinese High School (1919), the first secondary school catering to Chinese medium primary school leavers in SE Asia, serving the diasporic community in the region. The station is located in front of its Bukit Timah campus. If I’m not wrong, the alumni was polled on which name to submit to LTA for consideration, and eventually settled on the founder’s name, rather than the school name (Perhaps alumni readers can provide more details on this) He also contributed to Nanyang Girls’ School, ACS and Raffles College (precursor to University of Malaya), all in the vicinity. Known for his dedication to education, Tan would be happy to have his name remembered in an area of historic schools.

  4. 4 Des 18 June 2009 at 21:54

    From what I remember, the Tan Kah Kee station is located at the entrance of The Chinese High, and so the school rounded up support in its request to the LTA to have it re-named Hwa Chong Station or something like that. LTA eventually rejected the request and named it Tan Kah Kee, saying that he was the founder of the school (donating loads to build others as well) and who was a significant Chinese figure in Singapore years ago.

  5. 5 Alfred Chia 18 June 2009 at 22:51

    That has always been the problems with our bureaucrats. Whenever they make decisions like these naming of stations, I always wonder whether these people who finally decide ever really go down to the location (in this case, the stations) to take a look, or they just make them in the comfort of their lofty offices. The same goes with naming of roads, locations of pedestrians crossings, overhead bridges and the like – we often find them all wrongly done up or placed!

  6. 6 Ex-man 19 June 2009 at 00:05

    The MRT station which will be called “Botanic Gardens” cannot be called “Wayang Satu” because the flyover along Bukit Timah Raod and Dunearn Raod, spanning over the junction of Whitley Road / Stevens Road is called the “Wayang Satu Flyover”. This road intersection is located more than one km from the intersection of Clunny Road / Bukit Timah Road.

    Another new MRT station of the new circle line which is likely to cause some confusion is the one called “Farrer Road” (or “Farrer”) near Empress Road. It is because under the existing North East Line, we already have a “Farrer Park”. The 2 names are similar, but they are located miles apart.

  7. 7 yawningbread 19 June 2009 at 00:32

    OK, so Wayang Satu cannot. Serene cannot. Then call it Cluny Park North since it’s at the north end of Cluny Park Road.

    Or else call it Nagasaki station or Rumpelstiltskin Station or Wayang Kulit station. A brand new name with no baggage is better than a misleading name that will confuse.

    • 8 Michael Ng 19 June 2009 at 01:16

      I think naming the metro station after a founder is stupid. Stations are supposed to name after an area to avoid any confusions.

      The selection of the shortlisted names is based on the following general guidelines that the station name should:

      ·Identify the location readily so that all commuters can easily remember the names and identify the area of the station
      ·Illustrate the history and heritage of the station surroundings if relevant
      ·Reflect the multi-racial, multi-cultural character of Singapore if possible.

      I would say that many of the younger Singaporeans would not know about these great people in the singapore history. Like me,
      if i did not came across this i would definitely not know who the heck is Tan Kah Kee.

      The name Kah Kee will only be immediate relevant to the students and staff of Hwa Chong Insitution. So what about the others?

      If lets say naming after the founder is actually to honour him, then why isn’t there roads, buildings, or such being named after him before this? Why wait till now, the naming of the metro station should name after something that is already established.

      And also, the name Kah Kee might invite unwanted jokes. If you try speaking in hokkien.

  8. 9 Robox 19 June 2009 at 00:50

    Part of the problem that is not being acknowledged here is that Singaporeans themselves use language rather lazily. Similar to the “Downtown” example, what do ordinary people mean when they say they are going to “Novena”: the MRT station, the church, or the area in the vicinity of both/either? It’s a problem that can be easily rectified if we had a greater concern for accuracy in description.

    That said, it is the job of the bureaucrats concerned to be aware of such the speech habits existing in the Singapore population, and take the steps to prevent any confusion that can arise from mis-naming MRT stations. It’s far easier for their small numbers to make changes in the way they do their work than it is to try and change an entire population entrenched as they are in their speech habits.

  9. 10 Michael Ng 19 June 2009 at 01:22

    And also why there isn’t any photo essays for this year?=D

  10. 11 GiveuponLTA 19 June 2009 at 13:08

    I refer to your comment about the confusion it might be for tourist for naming the station Botanic Gardens.

    It is the same damn mistake for Chinese Garden Station where you have to alight at Lakeside instead to get to Chinese Garden.

  11. 12 tk 19 June 2009 at 13:44


    this is more important than for example the ST editorial calling on governments and human rights activists to just forget about the disputed iranian election results and respect the verdict? < disgusting.

    anyway, back on topic – it's your blog after all 😉 people aren't as stupid as you seem to presume… they are perfectly capable of looking at a map – either on the station wall, on the web before they travel or increasingly on their mobile phone.

    and it's not like there aren't any other confusing place names in singapore (as the amusing nokia taxi ad has it…):
    far east square / far east plaza
    raffles place / raffles boulevard / raffles ave
    north bridge rd / new bridge rd
    UOB lucky plaza / UOB plaza

    and countless others all seemingly designed to confuse tourists, blur ex-pats and the poor hardworking taxi uncles and aunties.

    but even that is not the point.

    i think the LTA should be congratulated for putting in more lines in the first place. ask any poor downtrodden commuter from sydney, melbourne or brisbane if they'd prefer new stations with confoundingly bad names or no stations at all and i think you'll find that "confusion reigns" 😉

    now, if only the LTA could set aside 1/3 of the left most side of the [ridiculously wide] road lanes for a bike lane, this place would really be 'getting' somewhere!, pun intended

  12. 13 yawningbread 19 June 2009 at 16:08

    I have another idea for naming the station at the corner of Cluny Park Road and Bukit Timah Road near Serene Centre. Since it’s also a stone’s throw from the French Embassy, we should name it David Marshall station. Marshall was our long-time ambassador to France. He was also Singapore’s first popularly elected Chief Minister – a pioneer on our road to independence.

  13. 14 tkl 20 June 2009 at 10:20

    @Michael Ng – I think the point is being proven here that the station naming is effective in improving Singaporeans’ awareness of their own history…

  14. 15 Michael Ng 20 June 2009 at 15:27

    yeah i agree but it might confuse the elderly as Tan Kah Kee made several contributions not only to HCI.

  15. 16 Anonymous 21 June 2009 at 03:25

    If you don’t have a problem with “David Marshall” as a name for a station, then “Tan Kah Kee” shouldn’t really get you too upset.

    Re: Downtown, after its opening, people will get used to it being used as a station name rather than a general term. You seem to be getting too worked up about this.
    BTW, “Downtown” is used as a name on other subway/train lines. See: and which is abbreviated to “Downtown”.

    • 17 yawningbread 22 June 2009 at 13:11

      I don’t disagree with “Tan Kah Kee” as a station name; it was only that at the time of writing, I didn’t understand why . Thus, a “head-scratcher”.

      re Downtown, I see that both your examples are not exactly “Downtown”. They are “Downtown-Convention Center” in Austin and “Downtown-Berkeley” in Berkeley. In any case, just because others are making the same mistake, does not prove that “Downtown” is a good name. The argument that a word with a general geographical meaning should not be used for a specific locality still stands.

      Other cities’ rail systems offer all sorts of examples for doing things badly. In Kuala Lumpur, there is no through-ticket system for the 2 LRT and one monorail line. To change lnes, you have get out of one, buy a new ticket and board another. Each line even has its own stored value card. This even when both the LRTs appear to be operated by the same company. Does that mean that such an arrangement is good enough? People will eventually make do. So why do we bother to integrate our ticketing systems?

      Because “make do” is not good enough. Choosing a name like “Downtown” or “Botanic Gardens” are lazy “make do’s”. People may eventually adapt and live with the confusion, but we should, when we have the opportunity, do better.

  16. 18 Seelan Palay 23 June 2009 at 00:02

    The old man has taken on the role of a god and force-fed Singaporeans with his social engineering.

    The naming of the station ‘Downtown’ can be viewed in pretty much the same way. The station is named downtown because they want it to become the ‘central hip place’ through the inevitable implication and our forced use of the name.

    • 19 Seelan Palay 23 June 2009 at 00:04

      And to add to that, they and their associates probably have big shopping and lifestyle developments planned for the area so it will help that the place will be called ‘downtown’.

      No, it doesn’t matter whether it actually has any life at all. All that matters is the surface, the superficial. Just like everything else the PAP’s island experiment.

  17. 20 inspector Fu 25 June 2009 at 17:08

    “Do our bureaucrats understand anything about human linguistic and cognitive behaviour?”

    First of all, Singaporean politicos have been Hobbesian authoritarian assholes long enough and Singaporeans seem to love it. So I’d say they know the Singaporean people well enough.

    How to solve your ‘head scratcher’

    ‘The downtown MRT.’ Problem solved. For stupid people it might take a couple days to get used to it, but I promise they will.

  18. 21 sammy 25 June 2009 at 17:58

    actually from what i see, the only valid point is the “Downtown” station. the rest of it seems fine by me.

    Downtown is a tad too generic to be defined as where the hell it is located in Singapore. agreed.

    with regards to marina bay, well there’s really not much contention there. even if they were to rename it marina south, it makes no difference. if u were to tell a tourist, the only marina i can think of is really marina square. in which case is 2 stops away from marina bay/south.

    and naming it indiana would have been dumb. dakota has a history attached to it which i believe some of us would have relate to immediately. but indiana is too indiana jones. calling a station with the name David Marshall is also too far-fetched. no disrespect to the man, but to co-relate him with the french embassy as he was the ambassador takes too much thought. i think he is of another level altogether. a road name or an instituion would have been more apt. tan kah kee is pretty simple cos he has contributed to the schools in the area.

  19. 22 Desmond 29 June 2009 at 16:21

    Maybe we can name the Botanic Gardens station to “Botanic Gardens End”. That would tell people it is not at the entrance.

  20. 23 Alwaysgreen 21 July 2009 at 16:58

    We should be happy that LTA isn’t under the same kinds of fiscal pressures as the NYCity Metro Transit Authority finds itself in. They have recently resorted to naming/renaming Subway stops after the highest bidder – the New York Times recently reported the renaming/amending of a subway stop in Brooklyn with the name of the highest bidder: Barclay’s bank. To quote: “Once upon a time, geographic relevance determined a station’s name, but now, the authority says it is open to any naming agreements that can raise revenue for its transit system, including ones not directly tied to location.”

    I wonder once LTA learns of the potential revenue stream, if we’ll be dealing with names such as “McDonald’s King Albert Park” station, or some such.

  21. 24 tsh 14 September 2009 at 11:39

    Like Yawning Bread points and reasoning. All about sense and sensibility. Reference accuracy of the location is more important. How about Botanic Gardens Backside?

    Just stumbled on these exchanges. Am keen to see “correctnes”.

  22. 25 ultramarine 7 December 2009 at 16:29

    I’m a Hwa Chong alum and I think “Tan Kah Kee” is a bad choice for a station name. Generally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to name the station after a person instead of the neighbourhood. The main problem with “Tan Kah Kee” is that the name doesn’t evoke the geographical *location* of the station. How many people would connect the name “Tan Kah Kee” with “the section of Bukit Timah Road where Chinese High, Hwa Chong and NJC are located”? When I hear the name “Tan Kah Kee”, I think of the philanthropist, not of Bukit Timah Road. In fact, I suspect that many younger Singaporeans or new immigrants, not to mention tourists, would never have heard of him. If there already was a “Kah Kee Road” in the area, then I guess the name would be acceptable. But there isn’t; Singaporeans have never called that neighbourhood “Kah Kee”.

    On the other hand, “Yishun” (after Lim Nee Soon) is totally fine as a station name since the neighbourhood was known as “Yishun” long before the MRT station was built.

    I agree with the Marina Bay issues you bring up, but I don’t have any better suggestions.

  23. 26 Anonymous 14 March 2010 at 23:47

    one-north is still a stupid name to name a train station. and downtown too. misleading. a train station is supposed to capture the essence of the vicinity. it gives an identity to the nearby neighbourhood. these train stations are going to be here for the century ahead, and short-sighted names like one-north just tells how irresponsible and bo chup the naming committee is. what if fusionopolis or biopolis fails? then what does “one-north” mean? even if i’m wrong, one-north for a train station is just tasteless and revolting, like a failed “avant-garde” wannabe name. please. someone can go and wake them up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: