Toronto's TTC Might Get Bilingual Signs So That Quebec Will Do The Same
"We've got to, sort of, stand up first and show that we're big enough to do it."
- The board of the TTC approved a motion to explore the possibility of bilingual signage and announcements in stations.
- One board member expressed an intention to set an example for Quebec, where transit signs are in French, the official language.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) adopted a motion last month to initiate a study into the cost and execution of adding bilingual subway signage at new stations as well as "any existing subway station undergoing an overhaul, reconstruction or renovation." Part of the presentation of the motion also included an aim to introduce bilingual audio messages on buses as well as streetcars throughout Toronto The motion passed on January 27 and dictates that TTC staff will report back with information regarding the cost of such updates, as well as the potential to implement way-finding signage that reflects "local neighbourhoods and any linguistic concentrations." The example being the introduction of Chinese characters for signs in Chinatown.
During the Board meeting on January 27, 2020, Vice-Chair Alan Heisey indicated that one of the reasons it would be worth going forward with the introduction of bilingual signage throughout the TTC is the potential impact this decision could have on Quebec's transport networks.
The presentation pointed to Ottawa's OC Transpo as a benchmark, as bus announcements are done in both official languages.
The motion was presented along with a video slideshow, seen below, led by Alan Yule, who notes that Toronto is the "largest city in a bilingual country" and insists the TTC "should do more" than only look at making signage bilingual.
Yule also apologizes in the video for not having enough time to do the whole presentation in both French and English, thus why "only the title is bilingual."
Though... we might be tempted to call it "franglais."
"Announcements in the subway system should also be in French and English," Yule insists, "just as they are on the GO train and likely will be on lines 5 and 6."
The new subway lines (5 and 6) have received provincial funding and therefore must be bilingual.
Vice-Chair Alan Heisey then went on to explain why he personally seconded the motion put forth by Councillor Jennifer McKelvie.
"If we want to talk to Quebec about not having unilingual signage, maybe we've got to, sort of, stand up first and show that we're big enough to do it so that we can lecture them."
He also admitted that Toronto has "an inherent inconsistency in [the] application of the official languages."
"I take the GO system occasionally and I am moving from a bilingual to a unilingual environment in the same building, by going up and down stairs," Heisey explained.
While these motion were adopted, we likely won't see any updates for some time.
As it stands, TTC staff are now responsible for reporting back, through the TTC's "Wayfinding Strategy" to indicate the "costs to install bilingual signage in any existing subway station undergoing an overhaul, reconstruction or renovation."
The full motion can be found in both French and English here. The motion that includes mention of signage that reflects "local neighbourhoods and any linguistic concentrations" can be found in English here.
The board meeting can be viewed in full on YouTube here.
We reached out to Councillors Minnan-Wong and McKelvie for more information on this project but did not receive a response before publication.