It really was silly season at the TTC yesterday. Commissioner Peter Milczyn asked for a report on naming rights for stations in return for corporate sponsorship. A short debate ensued during which the Commissioners seemed to forget that barely an hour earlier they had approved a report entitled TTC Corporate Policy Review – Policy 2.8.2 Identification of Routes, Stations and Stops. This report states quite clearly:
Normally, the station name will incorporate the name of the major cross-street at which it is located, so that the location of the station is clearly identified to customers as they travel through the system. If this is not possible (because, for example, confusion would result with existing station names, or because there is no major nearby cross-street), then the station name may be related to the area in which the station is located, or a major destination nearby.
A good example of the last class of station name is “Museum”.
I have a fundamental objection to corporate sponsorships on the basis of equity. If you want to build a subway station, it will cost anywhere from $70-100 million, and even more for a large terminal or interchange, not to mention ongoing operating costs. If Pepsi or Walmart wants to sponsor a station, let them shell out at least 2/3 of the cost so that, on an after tax basis, they’re paying at least half the price of the station.
Meanwhile, you and I, who actually pay for the station through our taxes should expect that naming rights will stay in the public sector.
No sponsor wants to shell out $35-50 million, and they hope to buy a station for a few million. For that they get a couple of escalators. Maybe they could actually pay to maintain the escalators so that their logo isn’t associated with a machine sitting in parts all over the floor more often than it actually carries passengers.
Has anybody actually heard any figures of how much corporations would be willing to shell out. I was listening to the John Moore show this morning on CFRB and the preposterous idea of giving naming rights to corporations who fully fund new transit lines. That’s why I’m wondering how much corporations would be willing to spend.
Steve: If you want to make comparisons, it is worth looking at the Vancouver Olympics Business Plan and Games Budget and in particular the Appendices including information about corporate sponsorships.
In that document, we learn that a Tier 1 sponsorship will set you back $50-million, and the companies at this level are Bell, HBC, RBC Financial, GM, PetroCan and RONA. They are buying exposure at a huge level for this money, albeit for a brief period, along with the cachet of an association with the Olympics.
Tier 2 is $15-million, and Tier 3 is $3-million. You can read who’s on each list for yourself. The target for fundraising via this mechanism is to have $760-million pledged by December 31, 2009. Note that this would not pay the cost of ONE subway extension in Toronto, let alone several on various people’s wish lists.
At least the Vancouver organizing committee is raising the lion’s share of its funding via this mechanism, and I don’t begrudge the sponsors what is, in effect, prestige advertising rights.
By contrast, if, say, IKEA wanted to sponsor Bessarion Station (sitting at their front door), and it were being built today, they would get to shell out at least $50-million for the privilege of having their name on the least-used station in the network.
Station naming will be very much like the One Stop situation: companies would line up around the block to name Bloor-Yonge because of the exposure, but nobody will want Chester (although I kind of like the idea of a Big Carrot Station). Do we start choosing where to build stations based on whether they can get sponsors?
Once again, we have a combination of politicians who think the private sector has zillions of dollars just sitting around for the taking. If they’re so convinced of this, I have a one word answer: taxes. Transit is a public good that benefits everyone, private and public sector alike. Rather than griping about how uncompetitive it is to locate in Toronto, the private sector should get ready to pay for the cost of making the GTA a truly world-class location with a first-rate transit system.
There is one example in North America where the private sector built a rail line. The gaming facilities in Las Vegas pooled their resources together to build the monorail line. The construction cost more than expected, but the private sector swallowed it. The stations were named Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas Hilton.
If Toronto is to allow gaming facilities let say on the CNE grounds. We would not have a tram line going there. The gaming operator will pay to have a metro going there.
I also believe that the likes of Pepsi will be much more willing to spend the money buying naming rights if we allow them to have exclusivity agreement. For example, for $50 million, they can get Bessarion Station and the exclusive right to sell beverages at all the stations on the Sheppard metro line. So, no Coke, Starbucks on the Sheppard metro line. Just good old Pepsi available in all flavors.
The other alternative is to install VLTs at the stations. People waiting for a bus would not mind dropping some change for entertainment. The Las Vegas airport already uses VLT revenues to help pay for some of the operation cost.
Steve: I have a fundamental objection to the idea that we should set up VLTs as a way to pay for transit. They are a tax on the poor, disproportionately, and have been banned in some jurisdictions as addictive. Bluntly, if we think something is worth doing, we pay for it out of taxes. That’s what they’re for.
As for the Las Vegas monorail, there’s a good article at Wikipedia in which we learn, among other things, that the line is a registered charity under Nevada law as it provides a public service. I am always so impressed when the private sector magnanimously lets a tax break underwrite their activities.
Ridership in April 2007 was less than half the level needed for the line to sustain its operating and capital costs, and a proposed extension is on hold pending funding. This is not the rosy situation you would have us believe.
Also, I cannot resist observing that just because Bombardier built it doesn’t mean it’s a good technology, just that it happened to fit the bill, as perceived by the system’s sponsors.
Discussing this with my wife while passing through the puddles at Yonge-Bloor SB this morning, she pointed out that a corporate sponsor would likely demand and get proper maintenance and cleaning in return for naming rights. Unfortunately the “contract” taxpayers and riders have with TTC doesn’t seem to cover that particular issue.
Rather than naming rights, a la “Rogers Centre”, I would have less of an objection to exclusive advertising rights within a given station, whether someone picked up the tab for an entire station, or a percentage of it. It would seem to me that any one purchasing naming rights would want exclusives on the advertising anyway – Coke Station would preclude Pepsi product advertising – but how would this compare to what the posters in the stations already rake in during the year? Aside from an obvious objection to the commercialization of public spaces, I think maintaining geographical names is essential for tourists and other new arrivals to the TTC.
I have an idea of what the private sector can do. They can shell out money for the station of their choosing, and have exclusive advertising for their products. By means of advertising, I mean posters and some more creative forms of ad media. I don’t want stations being renamed. If some “evil” corporation wants Yonge-Bloor station but if yet another corp. signed a one year contract, we can give the new corporation yet another station and ad wrapped buses and trains as a subsitute.
I personally don’t like the idea of this, and prefer like you said Steve, to make taxation the proper way of doing business.
Renaming existing subway stations after corporate sponsors is absolutely unacceptable. It will endlessly confuse anyone that tries to actually use those stations. People in Toronto refer to their intersections by street name, not by which landmark some megacorp built nearby. The TTC should not accept naming rights for any station at any price. Yorkdale is a dangerous precedent, which I presume was only allowed because because the only cross street nearby is the 401, which is not a major destination (right?). Therefore, I wonder what the 407 Transitway station will be called if some developer decides to build a mall at 400 & 407?
Steve: Another problem arises with time limited sponsorships or if a corporation changes its name or identity scheme.
How many people know where the following theatres are: The Sony Centre, the Panasonic Theatre, the Scotiabank Theatre, the Canon Theatre. Do you know all of their original names?
Meanwhile at St. Clair Station, the north entrance has orange tile because that was Loblaws corporate colour at the time it was built, and the building above the entrance was owned by their corporate parent. We’re lucky that the every-letter-a-different-colour logo wasn’t in use at the time.
I can see putting a corporate name on a station located in, say, a mall — Cloverdale Mall or Fairview Plaza (or even Scarborough Town Centre?) But calling the station between Shepherd and Finch “Bad Boy”? I sometimes have trouble remembering where St Andrew and St Patrick are; at least there’s a street for St George.
Very definitely, though, if the want the name they can pay the full cost.
Steve: There actually is a St. Patrick Street, but it runs north-south parallel to University, one block west along Dundas, and there’s the old St. Patrick’s Market (now full of fast food outlets) down on Queen. The name refers to the old ward name, as do St. Andrew and St. George. There are churches with matching names near St. Andrew and St. Patrick stations.
Extra points for knowing the other old ward names and how, if at all, they survive. I mention this as an example of how a naming scheme can drift in time due to changes in usage.
Matthew, you see that in the downtown stations as it is. But as Steve mentioned, no one will be doing it for High Park, or Chester, or Bessarion Station.
An aside, the fundamental reason for this debate, is the perpetual lack of funding. A comment of Steve’s over on Spacing when Peter Tabuns questioned why it is that the gov’t doesn’t pay 50% of the operating costs of transit is brilliant.
Station naming rights and exclusive sales rights aren’t going to run into the tens of millions of dollars. Part of the reason companies will drop $50 million on Olympics sponsorship is that their brand becomes part of heavily-watched TV coverage. “Toronto Life Square Station” wouldn’t have nearly the same reach.
On Seattle’s South Lake Union Streetcar, eight (of eleven) light-rail stops have been sponsored. The plan (489 KB PDF) was to charge about $50K per stop, per year.
A better model is probably Chicago’s Adopt-a-Station program. (“Adopted” station names are not changed.) If a company or BIA wants a nice little commemorative plaque for sponsoring a reno and ongoing upkeep, that seems like a reasonable, middle-ground approach.
Steve: I don’t have as much problem with “This Station Brought To You By” presence as it is a variation on advertising. However, it should not entail total domination presence where the corporate logo and colours overwhelm the station and people cannot find out where they are.
Not long ago, St. George was taken over by a station domination campaign by York University.
If the Pepsi Station becomes the Coke Station overnight, someone looking for the colours will get really confused.
Finally, we might also have a plain, unadorned stop with a sign saying “We are sorry this station is such a mess, but Walmart didn’t renew their sponsorship”.
All this talk of exclusive advertising rights.
If I may speak up here.
It happens every so often where a company will buy an entire train car, or even an entire train (I believe Bell Solo did that once in the 90s). No matter where you look, you see the same ad (or same campaign at least). It is a bit maddening, it creates a claustrophobic effect because you can’t really get away from the ad unless you close your eyes – you know, once you’ve seen it once you don’t want to see it again for a few hours.
What’s ironic about this form of advertising is that, at least with me, the effect is very negative, as in I am far less likely to buy the product/service because they bombard us so heavily you’d think they think we’re deaf and blind (or just plain stupid), unless they’re just desperate in their own right (and of course, they want us to think they’re desperate!).
What if Russel Oliver bought an entire subway train? Psychiatric wards would never be able to keep up. Not only subway cars though, but when they buy the entire station, including floors and stairs being plastered with ads, as I’ve seen Pizza Pizza do on more than one occasion, while not quite inducing the claustrophic effect, it does invoke the urge to vomit (whether the vomit is worse than the advertising or vice-versa is fair game for discussion).
We should actually be treating this as a space that we want to attract people to, not a mere commercial spot. Saturating these places with advertising is not conductive to increased ridership, in fact, I’d argue that it turns people off so much that ridership goes down as a result of such agressive ad campaigns.
The TTC needs to really curb back on its advertising practices in these cases because they are all well aware that ad revenue is not going to solve their financial woes anyway! Some advertising is perfectly fine, but the theme here is everything in moderation.
The TTC has on occasion shown far too much willingness to sell its soul and identity to advertisers for a few bucks when the chips are down. If they want the chips to pick up in future though, staying away from such drastic measures may bear more fruit in terms of health and reputation of the system. That includes not only naming rights, but proper management and oversight of advertising in general.
Steve: I am always amazed with campaigns that have so few variations on their ads that we see umpteen copies within one car. If companies paid enough to generate lots of variation, this would encourage people to seek out all of the ads.
Of course this all started with a snake (didn’t everything else?) when the ROM had its wonderful, if short-lived snake posters. Those that were not stolen were taken down because a previous Chief General Manager, or possibly one of his relatives, couldn’t abide snakes. (I couldn’t abide him, but that’s another story.) The ad was clever (“we haven’t seen you in a long, long, long, long time”) and the size was part of the message.
I have to agree with Karl Junkin’s comment that too much of one ad gives a claustrophobic effect.
When I first visited Paris in 1980, I thought it was kind of neat that one sponsor would purchase all the ads in one station. Then when I was back there in 1994, a certain Geena Davis movie that was out at the time helped to define the word tedious for me.
I wouldn’t be opposed to an adopt-a-station program that would also give a sponsor exclusive right to the existing ad space in the station. Just don’t start applying decals on every door handle and stair handrail, and step. Then, at least, there might be some hope of what Steve said in his original text: “Maybe they could actually pay to maintain the escalators so that their logo isn’t associated with a machine sitting in parts all over the floor more often than it actually carries passengers.”
On the subject of creative ads where an advertiser actually pays to have a variety of different ads, does anyone remember the “Chunky Fun Bus?”
I believe it was in the 80s (it pre-dated wrapped ads), but Campbell’s Chunky Soup had a campaign where they paid for all the ads on a bus. The outside poster on the side of the bus had something like, “Lucky you! You are about to ride the Chunky Fun Bus!” on it. Inside, the ads were all different (perhaps not every ad, they may have repeated further back in the bus) with various puzzles, quizes, and trivia. That’s the sort of ad campaign that is worth it – not only for the rider who doesn’t get that claustrophobic effect, but for the advertiser who gets remembered.
I for one dont want to have to travel between Wal-Mart’s Finch Station, and St.Clair, brought to you by Dell Computers. In fact, there are only three stations that I would support re-naming, and only because all three are named after specific buildings in the area. They are Museum, Queens Park, and Union. Each is named after a building in the area. I’d support the idea that those buildings could re-name the stations with building-related names. for example, Museum could become Royal Ontario Museum, or Queens Park could become Queens Park Legislature.
Steve: There is more than one museum at Museum even if the ROM thinks it’s the centre of the universe. Queen’s Park is (and was) a park before it was the site of the legislature, and it has an apostrophe. Union has had a railway station for over a century. We could always entertain bids for “Fairmont Royal York”, but then we would have to rename another station “Royal York West”.
This morning’s article in the Star says it all about TTC’s relationship with the private sector.
TTC had staked their redevelopment of Islington on SNC-Lavalin building a HQ there, except they diddled around for so long that Lavalin have now walked, leaving a $25m hole in the plan. Meanwhile, the local councillor says “well, since we don’t impose development charges on commercial, the site is still attractive.” Well, if we imposed development charges on commercial, maybe TTC wouldn’t have to depend on the vagaries of the real estate market to build new bus terminals!
All this makes one wonder how the Eglinton and Davisville redevelopments are coming along…
Steve: The Islington proposal got tangled up in more than red tape at the TTC, and the rumblings when this was reported previously at TTC meetings gave me the sense that Lavalin already had cold feet and just wanted an excuse to walk away from the deal.
This has a silver lining because now we can look at the entire site intelligently rather than forcing Lavalin’s building onto it.
I would like to posit this article from the Toronto Sun. They have some pretty good insight on the matter if you ask me.
Steve: I cannot help excerpting a few paragraphs from the end of this article.
Hmmm. Lets take a look at these:
Museum Station: Total cost $5-million. Provincial contribution $2-million. Budd Sugarman Foundation $1-million. Other corporate donations $1-million. City and TTC $1-million.
So we have $3-million of public money, plus $2-million funnelled through charitable donations that generate a tax write off for a total public investment of at least 75% of the cost.
Private expense? I think not.
Rogers Centre: Build with hundreds of millions of public funds and acquired, eventually, by Rogers for a fraction of what we paid to build it.
Sony Centre: Built originally by O’Keefe’s Brewery as the O’Keefe Centre, given to the City, later renamed the Hummingbird Centre, now the Sony Centre. This site depended on the opera and ballet companies (both tax supported) as its primary tenants for years. Now trying to reinvent itself. Future need for public subsidy uncertain.
Roy Thomson Hall: Built partly through charitable donations (including $1,000 from me) and government grants. Total public investment directly and indirectly (via tax expenditure) well in excess of half of thevalue of the building. If memory serves, the Thomson family paid about 10% of the total cost, seen on a pre-tax basis. Renovated at a cost of around $20-million again through government grants and donations (I was there again). This building is owned and operated by the City along with Massey Hall, a gift to the City in years gone by.
CN Tower: CN was a crown agency when the tower went up. Also this was built as a communications tower, not a cultural attraction, and as such was a sound business plan that had nothing to do with becoming an iconic, and copyrighted, Toronto symbol.
Air Canada Centre: Built by the Toronto Raptors with naming rights to Air Canada as a lead sponsor. Some would argue that Air Canada shouldn’t be funding sports stadia, but concentrate on flying planes. That’s a debate for another day.
Bata Shoe Museum: A genuine privately funded building.
The unnamed writer at The Sun shows that right-wing cant takes precedence over journalistic accuracy every time.
Once again, the Toronto Sun has shown why it’s readership is declining steadily. An editorial in today’s paper. They are attempting to compare the naming of sports venues, and tourist attractions to naming of transit stations. The last time I checked, most sports venues were private (sometimes paid with public funds.)
Of course the editor has no problem calling the commissioners opposed to the idea “socialist”.
They talk about Yorkdale, and how it got free advertising. Considering the area, what else can you name the station?
Steve: I think I have said enough about the Sun’s journalistic standards in my previous remarks.
Going by the TTC’s current advertisers, we’re more likely to see Lifestyles Condoms station than Wal-Mart station. I’ve argued here before for more advertising on the TTC, but I’m not for advertising that would make service less effective. So no naming stations after corporations (which would make stations harder to identify), no advertising off the platforms in subway stations (if they put a big graphic on the floor in front of the ticket booth — as frequently at Union — people are going to slow down to read it), and no bus-wrapping, which makes the bus harder to identify as a TTC bus, and often seriously limits the light inside.
I also fear that if the program is instituted that will serve as an excuse for government to cut funds. Once the program fails (as seems likely) there’ll be even less money in the budget.
Just because it is a right wing cant doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be considered. I present the following excerpts from that editorial:
“If the TTC is broke, why isn’t it being innovative about finding new revenue?
Instead, TTC Chairman Adam Giambrone and Vice-Chair Joe Mihevc this week rejected a potential new money source by giving private companies naming rights to subway stations.”
“Smart companies wouldn’t want to offend commuters with overbearing signage and in any event, the TTC would set the rules. What’s the problem?
Why not look at public-private partnerships? For example, a publicly- spirited company looking for good publicity could sponsor the renovation of a station promoting the Toronto Zoo, with discrete signs crediting the firm.”
The whole point is that there is an option and it should be considered, especially in light of tightening finances at the TTC. Just because you have your points regarding previous venues does not mean that it will be the same here provided that the TTC actually sits down and figures out how this will be properly done.
We’re all trying to find ways to help the TTC. We simply cannot rely on any government in the short or long term and we certainly are not going to continue paying through the nose through higher fares and taxes for it.
Steve: The TTC isn’t “broke”. The problem is that public investment in transit today is at nowhere near the level it once was, and transit has fallen behind its role. Estimates of capital and operating costs for the Metrolinx plans dwarf current TTC needs by an order of magnitude.
Smart companies may not want to offend, but they won’t pay millions for a small, tastefully designed sign mounted unobtrusively on a wall. This is advertising, and eyeballs count. Just read the One Stop literature — they put the signs where the eyeballs are, and if your station isn’t eyeballed enough, you don’t rate.
This entire discussion diverts attention from the much more important public policy question of how much we are going to invest in transit regardless of where it comes from. As long as we are wasting our time with penny-ante advertising proposals, we will never think about the scale of transit network we really need to build.
Right wing cant is bad enough, but when the supporting arguments are wildly inaccurate, it undermines the credibility of truly “conservative” thinking. There are times I could almost be a Red Tory, but then I realize the company I would have to keep. Gross misrepresentation of a “liberal” society and publicly funded enterprise is the hallmark of two decades of political bilge, and the Sun has done its bit to aid this. Not a proud history.
If we’re going to have naming rights as the Sun suggests, they should match total contributions to the TTC by different sources. Members of the public don’t make much distinction between operating and capital costs, or between stations and the service that runs through them, so naming rights should span these boundaries. The math would be messy and controversial, so I’ll ignore the details.
A very rough guess: almost all of the system has been “sponsored” by the three levels of government and — mustn’t forget — the riders. (If we’re going to be “run like a business”, we have to be “customer-focused”.) So, in fairness, these groups should get naming rights to the vast majority of the stations. Goodbye “Osgoode” and “College” stations, hello “Toronto City Hall” and “ServiceOntario”. (The riders can hold contests to rename and theme their stations.)
A company would have to contribute a huge amount in order to reach the one station threshhold (1/69th of operating and amortized capital costs for the subway system). My guess is this amount is far greater than the marketing value of the sponsorship. And that shouldn’t be any great surprise: government is in the transit business because its societal value is greater than its commercial value. It would be very short-sighted for the TTC to give private sector contributors a disproportionate amount of credit, and that’s what the typical naming rights model would do.
Just call yourself a “Green South Park Republican” and everything will work out fine, Steve. 😉 God, Auld Nick, and Stalin all know about the reactionary drivel to which Calgarians are subjected in *our* local media on a daily basis, but even the most strident, Percocet-gobbling dittohead out here will tell you that advertising revenue represents a miniscule, albeit welcome, proportion of the overall income on which the C-Train system depends.
The fundamental issue to my mind, as it applies both to Calgary Transit and to the TTC, is that while rail-based mass transit demands a substantial capital investment, its operating profits are channelled into a feeder bus network that takes fiscal losses in the hope that its social and environmental benefits will allow the system as a whole to break even. In that context, there’s no more reason for the Radisson Admiral on Queen’s Quay to plunk down a plugged nickel on the Rees Street Hahbuhfrawnt platforms than for the Sandman Hotel chain to invest in the Crack Corner C-Train platforms here in Calgary–any miniscule level of funding thus committed will be subsumed into operating expenses long before any passenger improvements ever see the light of day on the platforms.
Far better for Nick’s (the best carnivore-special pizza *evah* in Cowtown, as a matter of public record) and Pizza Pizza to drop a million or two on shrink-wrapping LRVs for a few years to advertise flashy, snazzy new vehicles on a new!-and!-improved! mass transit system, thus helping a transit system keep the lights on for a year or two, than for various and sundry major multinationals to flush untold millions down the capital investment drain on escalators that *still* don’t entirely work and on modern conveniences that meet neither criterion.
Here in Malaysia, advertising has reached new levels with the KL Monorail and the PUTRA LRT (now known as the Kelana Jaya Line).
The KL Monorail runs through the “golden triangle” business and tourist district. Each station has its own sponsor, such as local cellphone companies, insurance companies, etc. The station names are included in the route map (corporate logo at the centre of each station “spot”) and they are even included in the announcements. Imagine hearing “Next Station, Bukit Bintang-Coca Cola”
On top of that, KL Monorail sold most of the support columns in between stations to advertisers. They also found a way to hang ads under the guideways, and to top it all off, the trains themselves are wrapped.
On the Kelana Jaya line they managed to wrap a whole train (ART Mark II) in Nokia advertisements which was pretty tame compared to the monorail.
But it gets worse. This train’s PA system was changed so that each station announcement was preceeded by a Nokia Ringtone and followed by the phrase “Nokia, connecting people”
The only funny thing about it was watching people check their cellphones each time the train left a station.
I only hope that Toronto doesnt go this far overboard.
Barclays will soon have a New York subway station named after it, presuming that all goes according to plan.
I suppose New Yorkers are more interested in maximizing revenue than idealogical purity.
I continue to believe that the TTC could charge Pfizer a fortune for “Viagra Makes Your Coxwell” station.
Steve: Groan! This issue actually came up at the TTC within the past few years, and the decision was to keep stations named for what was actually nearby, not the big store that happened to be on the corner. Imagine how many times we would have to rename Queen Station!
It’s official! Next Stop! Barclay’s Station
Imagine how many times we would have to rename Queen Station!
At two-hundred grand a pop, Queen We Will Rock You Station might actually see some repairs!
Steve: No, the TTC would grab the money and use it for something as far from Queen-or-whatever-it-is-today station as possible, and the “Queen” signs would remain in place years after the station was officially supposed to be “Simpson’s”. Oops! We already have a “Bay” station so that would be a very expensive “The”. Alternatively we could have “Bay” and “The Bay” right next to each other on the Bloor line. That’s after we scrape the signs calling Bloor-Yonge “Lehman Brothers” off of the walls.