So the mayor of Surrey – a little suburban municipality just to the east and across the river from Vancouver – thinks that Translink, the regional transit authority, should follow Toronto’s example and sell naming rights to stations and lines as a source of badly needed funds. Forget road tolls, gas taxes, or any otherwise targeted taxes. No. Sell the public commons!
The Toronto deal drastically increases advertising space on buses and subways, and well, yah, the right to rename stations and lines.
I’m not sure – no actually, I am entirely sure – how I feel about this proposal. Forget Toronto for a minute, and just consider what is being proposed: Selling what remains of any notion of public space to the highest bidder so that they can in turn try their darndest to sell us more shit, more shit, more shit! What is this saying about who we are as a people, as a culture?
One has to ask how far, how much of our public realm we are willing to “sell” to pay for the infrastructure we seem unwilling to pay for ourselves. How much of our everyday experience we are willing to give over to the consumption machine that is advertising, branding, selling?
How that is going to look, I’m not sure. There is an example in Chicago where Apple paid something like $4 million to renovate a dilapidated subway station and adjoining plaza...on which, get this, there is a shiny new Apple store! There are talks to rename the station.