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From AJX to RCY, new Pan Am street signs full of code letters

As some 5,000 new signs with airport-style lingo descend on the region, even Pan Am CEO Saad Rafi had trouble with some of the shorthand.
June 23, 2015
By Rob Ferguson

If you’re a baseball-lovin’ Pan Am Games VIP landing at YYZ, cruise that rental east on the 401 HOV to AJX and you’ll be A-OK.

Sailors, the UPX makes the trip from PIA to RCY. Quicker than you can say PRESTO.

And, natch, CEB is the place for BMX.

Got all that?

Sports fans from near and far will need to learn a new lingo for the Pan Am Games starting July 10, with airport-style code letters for each of the 34 venues as 250,000 visitors and 10,000 athletes and officials from North, Central and South America descend on Toronto and southern Ontario.

More than 5,000 signs will feature the codes, helping direct ticket holders to places of competition like CEB - short for the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre - and RCY, which is Sugar Beach on the waterfront and named for the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Not far from Union Station, where the Union-Pearson Express stops.

“The signage we’re unveiling today (Tuesday) plays a critical role for the games,” said Pan Am CEO Saad Rafi, who was stumped when asked to decode some of the shorthand.

Some of the venue names, after all, are long - such as the CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House. Or PAC for short. Others are easier, like the President’s Choice Ajax Ballpark (AJX).

Games officials insist ticket holders will catch on because the acronyms are on their tickets and the signs, along with pictograms of the sports they’ll be watching.

“The prevailing opinion is that’s the best way to make sure that we have people getting to the venues on time,” said Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca.

Also of note - the acronyms are the same in English, French and Spanish.

“All of these were focus tested, not only the three-letter code but the three-letter code in combination with the pictogram and also people were asked about how to distinguish the signs,” Rafi said.

“Since these signs are just now going up, I think we should give everybody a chance to get used to where they want to go.”

With 17 days until the games begin, and new restrictions on high-occupancy vehicle or HOV lanes starting Monday to whip drivers into Pan Am mode, signs are going up in 16 southern Ontario municipalities, not only for motorists but for public transit and pedestrians as well.

On HOV lanes, vehicles will have to contain three people between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. to avoid $110 fines and 3 demerit points.

OPP Sgt. Peter Leon said there will be a “significant increase” in officers on the roads to ensure traffic flows as smoothly as possible.

“The roads are going to be congested at times,” he warned. “We will do what we need to do.”

Del Duca said motorists - whether they are going to a Games event, work or on a pleasure trip - should use the online Pan Am traffic app to plan their journeys.

“When you’ve got a Jays game or a Leaf or Raptors game, we all know in this region when the games are taking place ... to avoid or make alternative plans or adjustments to our commutes. This is that on a larger scale.”

Crews are still replacing HOV diamond decals peeling off in the wet weather and will replace them with paint if necessary, Del Duca added.

Officials are hoping for a 20 per cent reduction in traffic during the games through co-operation from motorists. If that proves true, commute times should be six or seven minutes longer at worst, the minister said.

“If we all do our bit ... we will have a region that keeps moving.”