San Francisco Muni to consider naming stations after advertisers.
January 23, 2001 4:09 PM   Subscribe

San Francisco Muni to consider naming stations after advertisers. If you've been in SF (or any major US city) recently, you've probably noticed the buses covered with ads inside and out, the two stadiums named after corporations (all US stadiums seem to be now), and subway platforms coated in billboards. Now, they're considering selling the names of each station off to the highest bidder. Is this going too far or should a city do anything to make a buck? (I'm reminded of the book Generation X where the author jokes about rampant advertising, and how one day you'll ask your friend what time it is, and he'll simply say "Pepsi")
posted by mathowie (39 comments total)
man: "How do I get to your office?"
receptionist: "Well, you'll need to get off at McDonald's...oh wait, I think it's now Microsoft, please hold...Bob, is McDonald's Microsoft now?"
bob: "You mean that old Powell station?"
receptionist: "Yeah"
bob: "No, I think Microsoft lost the bid to AOL/TimeWarner..."
receptionist: "Oh right, thanks. Sir, you'll need to get off MUNI at the AOL/TimeWarner stop and...."

Yeah, sounds like a good idea to me.
posted by megnut at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2001

Though if the money was put into actual MUNI performance, I'd be willing to suffer through a discreet pleasant announcement to the effect of "this on-time, uncrowded, un-interrupted by traffic at the next station MUNI ride has been brought to you by AOL/Time Warner"...
posted by judith at 4:32 PM on January 23, 2001

Grrrr. As you can see, they're talking about that in Boston as well - even started it. My wife and I discussed it on the drive home with NPR in the background. It's not so much as the name changes and problems with directions (but that was brought up) it's that places like Copley, South Station, Kenmore, Kendall, and Ruggles all have an important historical and reminiscent meaning to those of us living here.

They already took away the Garden....what's next?
posted by bkdelong at 4:41 PM on January 23, 2001

See also David Foster Wallace's notion of subsidized time. Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, here we come!

posted by mcguirk at 4:42 PM on January 23, 2001

This is even more lame than when Candlestick Park was renamed/purchased and we were all expected to call it 3Com Park. Not. For those of us who've lived in the Bay Area for a while, it will always be Candlestick Park, or Powell Street Station, or Church Street Station, etc. It doesn't stop me from feeling disgusted, though. The idea of an AOL/Time Warner Station offends me as much as does the sight of Evans Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. Ugly ugly ugly. I hope this proposal to sell off names of MUNI stops doesn't happen.
posted by doublehelix at 4:43 PM on January 23, 2001

I remember hearing about Candlestick changing its name to 3Com Park and thinking quite distinctly, "Who the hell is 3Com?"

I think, realistically, streets are next. That is, public streets - not these little rinky-dink subdivision "streets". "I live on the corner of Microsoft and Pfizer."

Chicago's relatively-new Comiskey Park is getting renovated and owner Jerry Reinsdorf (ick) claims corporate sponsorship isn't out of the question; Soldier Field is also getting a renovation and, again, corporate sponsorship isn't out of the question. I can't wait until big cities (larger than, OR) change their names to suit their biggest corporations. I'll be in a suburb of Sears, IL!

posted by hijinx at 4:52 PM on January 23, 2001

Rename the routes, not the stations. Then again, the thought of riding the "Microsoft Express" would fill me with horror.
posted by holgate at 4:53 PM on January 23, 2001

If they change Powell Street Station to AOL/Time Warner Station, they might as well change the name of the damn street as well.

"Yes, that's right. I live on the corner of IBM Lane and InBevCo Court."

posted by schlomo at 4:53 PM on January 23, 2001

Encroaching corporatization on the public sphere continues unabated. Instead of letting corporations buy station names, perhaps they should pay some taxes, which would go toward improving public transportation, without actually letting them co-opt more public spaces.

So crazy it just might work.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:54 PM on January 23, 2001

If you're on the Microsoft Express when it crashes, does a blue screen flash before your eyes?

Is the Apple bus translucent, or encased in titanium?
posted by hijinx at 5:00 PM on January 23, 2001

bkdelong - I grew up in Boston, so that would make me sad. I still call the Hynes/ICA stop Auditorium because that's how I remember it.

holgate - I like that suggestion, renaming the routes. My line, the N/Judah, could become the Nike N/Judah! It would be FAST FAST FAST!
posted by megnut at 5:04 PM on January 23, 2001

disgusting...maybe i should buy them and name them what they're already named to prevent them becoming "Gap", "Nike", "Microsoft", "Intel" stops...completely disgusting.
posted by physics at 5:14 PM on January 23, 2001

Hijinx- Apple's bus would first come in different flavors for each route and they would promise a newer, faster, more stable bus "any day now", but lords knows when it would arrive.

Microsoft's bus would charge you to get on and not give you a transfer to prevent piracy, but everyone would find a way to get on free anyway. It would break down every hour and the drivers would be difficult, but you would have little choice because it would be the only one going to all of the best stops.

BeOS would make great buses that would run fast and cheap, but no one would ride them for lack of service range.

And Linux buses would be filled with fanatics spouting gibberish. All the buses would look different and their time schdules would be erratic and hard to decipher, but if you could handle it, would be a decent ride.
posted by Hackworth at 5:28 PM on January 23, 2001

Boston (well, the MBTA) won't exactly be renaming stations. Instead, they'll be using the "sponsored by" approach, sort of like they did when Citizens Bank "bought" the State Street stop a few years back: State Street/Citizens.

What I'd like to see is John Hancock buy the naming rights to the Prudential stop.

But why stop there? Why not sell the entire state? You could have signs at all the borders: Welcome to the FleetBoston Commonwealth of Massachusetts
posted by agaffin at 5:30 PM on January 23, 2001

Sentimental value of the stations means more to me than whether or not things are commercialized.

Mathowie mentioned that the buses are plastered with ads, but how often do you actually notice the ads? Over-commercialization just makes advertising that much more ineffective.

No one's going to buy a Microsoft product because that's what the station name is, they're going to buy it because they think it's a decent piece of software. No one's going to buy Tide because a line's named after it, they're going to buy it because their mom bought it.

Well, that's why I buy it. And, uh, it gets stuff clean. That's a plus.

Changing the names of stations that have historical meaning is icky, I definitely agree with that. Earning money off corporations that want to shell out the coin for something that no one's going to notice? Go for it.

Hackworth: you forgot to mention that if the Linux trains broke down or needed repairs, the riders would pull out their toolkits and fix 'em themselves.
posted by cCranium at 5:35 PM on January 23, 2001

Why are we paying taxes again? What, exactly, is happening to all that money? When I pay a dollar to ride MUNI, who gets that money? Where is it going? What's happening to it? Frankly, if corporations start owning the stations, I don't expect to have to pay to use them. Frankly.
posted by honkzilla at 5:36 PM on January 23, 2001

CC - indeed! Ride for free, too!
posted by Hackworth at 5:37 PM on January 23, 2001

Meet me at the intersection of Frontpage and Outlook, near the MS Express stop.
posted by bjgeiger at 5:41 PM on January 23, 2001

If corporations are going to be paying loads of money to advertise and fund public transit, public transit better become cheaper.

Sort of like Internet funding (no wait, that's not working much anymore...) - if the service is good and free - I don't object to ads. If it's paid at a premium, I don't want to see it. If they're going to start renaming train stations, roads, whatever... they better make sure I have more money in my pocket for using them (which would be the point, because then I would have money with which to spend on their actual products.)

posted by mkn at 5:48 PM on January 23, 2001

Won't happen in London, for one big reason: Humph wouldn't let 'em.

(Actually, for Brit MeFi-tes: anyone want to start a game of Mornington Crescent, with Dot-Com rules?)
posted by holgate at 6:21 PM on January 23, 2001

Well, at least MUNI stations will have some variety. Here in Springfield, we only have a few local millionaires to give money to the universities, so we've got a Robert W. Plaster Student Union as well as a Robert W. Plaster Sports Complex. Even better, we've got a Hammons House, Hammons Hall, Hammons Student Center and Hammons Fountain, all along Hammons Parkway, just down the street from the Hammons Building, the Hammons Tower, the Hammons Federal Courthouse, the Hammons Chamber of Commerce Building, and a statue of, guess who, John Q. Hammons.

"Uh, how do I get downtown?"

"Oh, just turn there on Hammons at Hammons, past Hammons and Hammons, until you see Hammons, Hammons, and Hammons. Turn left, past Hammons and you're there."
posted by daveadams at 7:01 PM on January 23, 2001

Oh, I left out the other Hammons fountain and the Hammons School of Architecture.
posted by daveadams at 7:03 PM on January 23, 2001

Dave, those places are all located down in the Hammons district, right? [reference, for those playing at home]
posted by mathowie at 7:08 PM on January 23, 2001

The San Jose Arena just knuckled under to Compaq, but we made them pay. See how your town measures up. Check page 7 of the PDF for the comparison chart.
posted by JDC8 at 8:24 PM on January 23, 2001

Concerning "corporate sponsorship":

My school just got our new vending machines from a sponsor deal today; we used to have only Pepsi, now there's both Pepsi and Coke machines dotting the halls. Our district recieved $300,000. I, frankly, don't see the problem. Now I have more choice on my drink, assuming I want to stay on campus, and the school has more money. No one is dying from seeing a Coke machine. No one will freeze to death. But I will get a better education.

Just like you'll get better train service, because sponsors wont' want to be associated with poor service.

posted by Kevs at 8:26 PM on January 23, 2001

(digression ...)

If corporations are going to be paying loads of money to advertise and fund public transit, public transit better become cheaper.

public transit already is cheaper than having a car in most places, though, isn't it? I live close enough to my work place that it's not an issue for me, but if I had to commute to DC from where I live now, it would cost less than $30/week, versus $30/week on gas, plus tolls, plus parking, plus car insurance/maintenance/taxes if I drove ... just a thought.

on the other hand, maybe advertising would reduce some of the huge subsidies that keep just about every public transit system on earth from going under.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:46 PM on January 23, 2001

Kevs -

Not all corporate sponsorships end in greater choice.

From a 1998 article:

Officials at a Georgia high school on Wednesday defended their decision to suspend a student who wore a Pepsi shirt on a day when Coca-Cola executives were visiting the campus as part of a promotion.

posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:51 PM on January 23, 2001

Of course, all that really matters is what name people actually use. When Candlestick became 3Com, the SF Examiner simply refused to use the new name in its pages.
posted by jjg at 10:54 PM on January 23, 2001

Ha, that's a great article, further down is explains that changing the name to 3Com was part of a deal to raise enough money to host the 1999 Super Bowl at the 'Stick. That's funny, I don't recall the 1999 Super Bowl being played in San Francisco, do you?
posted by megnut at 11:00 PM on January 23, 2001

Hmm, I seem to recall that it was in Miami, now that you mention it.
posted by jjg at 12:12 AM on January 24, 2001

Kevs, those commercial contracts in your school aren’t quite as benign as you might suspect. They teach you about false dichotomies, and rampant consumerism. Both of which should be studied in the abstract, and not experienced firsthand.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 6:05 AM on January 24, 2001

I'm not sure what's next. I know my favorite sports team, the Green Bay Packers are close to selling the stadium naming rights. First the Brewers Miller Park, now....(Insert funny Wisconsin named joke/company). Now I can't think of too many teams that DON'T play in a branded stadium. Fed Ex field, FU center, park, PSInet stadium. Anyone have a list of teams that haven't sold out? I think this could turn into a pretty humourous thread about giving directions to lost individuals new to town. What other companies can you think of that would be funny to have a couple of buildings or streets named after them?
posted by brent at 6:32 AM on January 24, 2001

the Toronto Blue Jays still play in the Skydome, but the Leafs and the Raptors are in the Air Canada Centre. That one was the ACC from the start though, it never had another name.
posted by cCranium at 6:59 AM on January 24, 2001

The Red Sox still play at Fenway.
posted by megnut at 9:19 AM on January 24, 2001

Um. What's wrong with experiencing false dichotomies and rampant consumerism firsthand? I'm not advocating living an unexamined life by any means; it can be a very effective lesson to learn how these things you never think about affect you.
posted by kindall at 9:42 AM on January 24, 2001

This thread is extremely disillusioning to me and my newborn son, Gerber Twix Napster II.
posted by Skot at 9:49 AM on January 24, 2001

The Chicago Tribune Company owns the Chicago Cubs but they have the good sense not to rename Wrigley Field 'Tribune Field'.
Of course as I write this I realize that Wrigley Field has carried the name of a chewing gum company for the last 75 years...
posted by twitch at 10:34 AM on January 24, 2001

Somehow a stadium named for a company named for a human being seems less impersonal than one named for an acronym or worst of all, a gawdawful modern made-up name.
posted by harmful at 10:47 AM on January 24, 2001

I dunno. It's been years and years now, and nobody calls Chicago's Ogilvie Transportation Center (named after an obscure transportation committee chairman) anything but "Northwestern Station" -- a name it hasn't officially held for a couple of decades. And all the cabbies know exactly what you mean.

I actually kinda like "United Center", which took over for Chicago Stadium. And "Allstate Arena" isn't bad, alliteration included, and eliminates confusion of the former Rosemont Horizon with the nearby Rosemont Theater.

The one that always cracks me up is Miami's National Car Rental Center. "Billy Joel -- at the National Car Rental Center!" Yep, the piano's set up between the Returns and Checkout.
posted by dhartung at 12:46 PM on January 24, 2001

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