OK, people, listen up. The good folks at TriMet are looking for a name for the Washington County Commuter Rail line that will run the 14.7 miles between Beaverton and Wilsonville starting in September of 2008.
In fact, they're holding a contest. If you dream up a good name and they pick your idea, according to an recent e-mail, 'you could win an annual TriMet transit pass valued at $836 and a sneak preview ride, along with the everlasting glow of seeing your winning name on the rail vehicles and marketing materials for years to come.'
You probably heard about the train - it will use existing tracks and have stops in Wilsonville, Tualatin, Tigard, Progress (near Cascade Plaza) and the Beaverton Transit Center. Yes, we are in Lake Oswego over here, but odds are some of us might take the train sometime.
The TriMet people have some pointers for those of you who would like to take a shot at picking a moniker for the new train line: 'The name should be simple, fun and memorable.'
I thought it might be a good idea for us to review some other transit system names for inspiration. Most of them are all about initials. New York has the MTA, and San Francisco has BART. Portland, of course, has the MAX train, and there seem to be Metros everywhere - Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Paris, Milan.
London, at least, had the good taste to come up with actual words that were a little original: The Underground.
Now, before we dive into the train name issue, let's stop and recognize this is entirely different than creating a slogan.
We know, for example, that slogans can be outright lies: Just look at 'Portland: the City that Works'; 'The Oregonian: Practically Indispensable'; or Barry Goldwater's famous description: 'In your heart you know he's right.'
No, what we need here is something short and punchy, yet truthful - like the Underground or the Bullet Train. Or else some good, appropriate initials.
Combine all the towns covered by the commuter rail and you get some combination of W, T, T and two B's. Doesn't seem to be much there, I guess.
OK, let's ask ourselves some questions about this train. Is it light rail?
No. More like heavy rail.
Is it a fast train, like Japan's Bullet - or one of those that shoot through the French countryside?
No. According to TriMet, the train will average 37 miles an hour, with a top speed of 60.
About the same as my old Yamaha 80 used to do, if I was going downhill with the wind at my back.
So, we've got a slow, heavy, above-ground train lumbering through the most populated end of Washington County, taking people to work (or home from work).
If we were in the military we probably could not help combining pieces of the words, like taking Washington County Commuter Rail and calling it something really zippy like WashCoComRay.
Eew, too much like my old Navy days.
And, pinching the towns into one cute piece - WiTuTiBeav-something - naw, that's too dumb.
We could try the blunt approach and name it for its intended purpose: The Work Train. Kinda plain, though.
Maybe a little Johnny Cash music will get us in the right mood. I hear that train a-comin', comin' round the bend - come on, everybody now! - I ain't been to Beaverton since ah don't know when. Mercy!
Well, that didn't help either.
Tucson, Ariz., has something called Sun Tran. I guess we could incorporate the most typical weather phenomena. That would probably be overcast.
The Drizzle Express? RainRail?
OK, I'm getting tired. I'll leave this up to you while I concentrate on something I'm more qualified for, like making fun of things.
Anyway, for contest rules and details on how to enter, go to trimet.org/namethattrain and figure it out for yourself. Good luck.
Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.