So You Just Bought A Subway Station!

Let me be the first to congratulate you on buying the naming rights to one of our fine subway stations!  You’re probably wondering if there are extras in the contract, things you should know about your new home.

We’re sorry about the holes in the walls.  The stations are getting on and we suspected that there might be problems, so we took a look.  We will put the walls back in April, June, September, maybe next year.  Have we asked you about sponsoring the walls too?  We’ve cleaned up a lot of them, but every little contribution helps!

The ceilings are a bit grotty in a few stations.  We were planning to fix that too, but a scheme to develop a new easy-to-maintain ceiling tile system was cut from our budget.  Could we interest you in sponsoring that?

The collectors’ booths are a bit of a mess in some stations, and we know all those posters don’t look nice, especially the ones that are a few months out of date.  We’re working on it.  Could we interest you in buying poster space on the booths?  We really would rather sell it to you than put useful information on them, and our only request is that you leave an opening so that riders can talk to the collector.

Signage.  Yes, we know. Our signage isn’t the greatest in some stations, but we look on this as a museum of design.  This is Toronto, and artsy-fartsy stuff doesn’t count for much here.  We are prepared to take down all of the signs and replace them with new ones in your corporate colours and typeface.  We regret that this is an extra charge option.

Announcements.  All station announcements will include your company name, and a short message, changeable monthly, tailored to a specific campaign.  In keeping with our practice on print advertising, we will ensure that the new messages are posted on our trains no later than two weeks after any special offers are no longer valid.

For a small added fee, we will include your logo on our transfers.  They are sure to become collector’s items!  This offer will end once the entire system converts to Presto smart cards, but the more affluent among you could afford to sponsor that entire subsystem.  Please talk to our friends at Metrolinx about regional sponsorship opportunities.

Escalators and elevators.  Your contract does not include any guarantees that the vertical transportation elements within your station will be reliably operating at any time.  We regret that this could produce a poor impression on some target audiences.  To compensate, we invite you to sponsor one of our Wheel Trans buses.

Our trains are an important part of the transit system, and we will endeavour to have them pass through your station reasonably often.  Although service may at times be irregular, this gives you an opportunity to market to a captive audience.  Video advertising screens will be programmed to launch special advertising campaigns when there is an extended delay.

We regret that the shiny exteriors you saw in our brochure only are available on brand new equipment.  Older cars are washed as and when we can get them to the one working car wash in our system.  If you have purchased exterior advertising on our trains, we regret that it may not be legible or attractive to your target audience.  Our plans for platform doors will completely eliminate the need to wash train exteriors, and this problem will solve itself in a few decades.

Are you wondering why your station doesn’t have your name on it yet?  We’ve issued the work order, but there have been problems with co-ordination and we hope to have the station looking bright and new to your specifications in a few months.  Trust us!

What?  You’re want a refund?

19 thoughts on “So You Just Bought A Subway Station!

  1. Now is the time for all of us to organize and co-operate.
    Let’s let Steve choose his namesake.
    The Steve Munro Broadview Station Emergency exit.
    The Steve Munro Broadview Station Streetcar Loop.
    The Steve Munro Chair of the TTC.
    The Steve Munro Mayor of Toronto.

    I hear that one of the TV stations is looking for naming rights to CITY Hall.

    Steve: I am perfectly happy not being Mayor, and being Chair of the TTC with the current gang in charge at Council would be a thankless task. I will, however, accept Broadview Station Loop and the park that forms part of the property. I’ve given enough interviews there.


  2. I support sponsorship so long as the following is kept in mind

    A – Location names (IE Spadina) must be kept (IE “McDonalds Spadina Station” VS “McDonalds Station”)
    B – There is a floor, a minimum cost to buy one.
    B1 – This floor is $35,000,000 for most stations. $45M for the original 6, and $25M for stations on the SRT, or Sheppard, transfer stations not included.
    B2 – You get a discount (25%?) if your name can be worked into the station name “Royal York” becoming “Royal York Hotel” for example.
    C – The minimum term length is 5 years.

    Anything less, even by a penny, and I oppose.

    If this means nobody wants any stations, I am quite fine with that as well.


  3. Though I certainly do not like the idea of re-naming subway stations, streetcar loops, parks or ?? I have no real problem if a company “adopts” some piece of city real estate. In the US one often sees signs on the Interstates saying “This section of road has been adopted by Company X” and it is thus in their interest to keep it clean (if not repaved).

    Whether any sensible company would want to adopt some of our decrepit subway stations is quite another matter as I doubt many companies would want to be associated with broken escalators, late trains or out-of-date handwritten notices.

    Steve: The unspoken issue here is the relative cost of sponsoring a major undertaking like a subway station rebuild. We’re not talking a few tens of thousands worth of equipment in a park, but a serious portion of projects that can run into tens of millions. Why should BMO or Burger King or anyone get their name on a project for a minority contribution when far more of the cost will come from the public purse?


  4. Assuming, TTC can get significant revenue out of naming rights, is this annual income or will it be X amount for Y years and that’s it? Will this money go into TTC coffers or a general city fund?

    Steve: Nobody knows, because there is neither a specific proposal, nor any sense of whether the “private sector” has any interest in the level of sponsorship needed to make this work. There’s also an indirect tax subsidy by virtue of the fact that any contribution would be tax deductible. If this led to substantial “leakage”, the feds just might choose to plug that hole.


  5. Ah but in situations such as Nick suggest wherein you can potentially work the corporate name into the stations such as Royal York Hotel I would no do it. That would be confusing.. imagine how many people would head out to The Kingsway looking for the Royal York Hotel if they did that.

    Steve: It’s really a shame that the Ford Hotel is no longer with us.


  6. Well, we were halfway there already. I remember one year where St. George station was decorated by York University ads (I’m surprised that U of T didn’t make a fuss about it).

    Steve: The appropriate response will be to await the opening of the Spadina extension and then plaster York U station with ads for Ryerson and UofT. Maybe even buy naming rights so that it would be York University of Toronto Station.


  7. I would like to nominate City Hall to be renamed “The Preparation H” City Hall as most of the politicians that occupy the interior are a royal pain in the —!!

    I personally like the idea of “The Steve Munro Broadview Station Streetcar Loop and Community Parkette”.

    Steve: There will be a surcharge for the length of the sign.


  8. I guess it would reflect badly on the sponsor if there is a delay or a fire or a shooting or a suicide at a station with your name attached to it.

    Somehow I don’t think the headline “suicide delays subway service for 30 minutes at McDonald’s station” would sit very well with the marketing folks.

    I think even something like “299 McDonald’s” repeated over and over again over the PA would be somewhat unwanted.


  9. Among the best station names I’ve heard so far are “Dairy Queen” and “Burger King”. Of course we’ll need a corporate sponsor to finance an entire Line. How about “The Lord is our” Sheppard Line? Maybe God can find the $4 million.

    Steve: If God is only after $4-million, then in the best tradition of private-public partnerships, He would be putting up .1% of the cost in return for naming rights.


  10. If we’re going to do this, then there had better be a massive bidding war between Viagra and Cialis for the rights to Coxwell station. 😉


  11. Hi Steve

    In view of the fact that there is only one working washer on the subway system, why don’t we get a sponsor for car washing? Sort of like adopt – a – train.

    Steve: The problem is that due to work on carhouse expansions and repairs, some of it accelerated by the “stimulus” funding, the other car washers are out of service. Trains are cycled through the one working site now and then, mainly then. Some of them are quite filthy on the outside although clean on the inside showing that regular maintenance continues, to the degree possible. However, this is clearly an example of bad planning and a corporate sense that it’s ok to have dirty trains.


  12. I think this is a terrible idea. I certainly do not consider city infrastructure to be the same as an arena or theatre, and I think it looks cheap and tacky.

    Can the city control who buys the naming rights. Do we want ‘Trojans Union’ station? Would you want to tell people to come to ‘Tampax Broadview’ to see you? If the city refuses to accept such names would they be opening themselves up to long and expensive lawsuits?

    On another point, I wonder if the Ford Brothers have considered the costs involved. I would expect any such sponsor to require that the TTC refer to the new name at all times, starting as soon as possible. This would require not only the signs on the walls and around the affected station, but it would require changing the ‘next station’ signs in the adjoining stations, the subway maps in all subway cars on all lines (including the electronic ones in the new TR cars), all the ‘you are here’ maps in all stations on that line. Then there are all the large TTC system maps in the stations and various shelters which show the station name with all the routes that connect in a box at the edge of the map. Don’t forget replacing all the route maps for any bus route that connects with the station. And, of course, if this occurs before the current streetcars are retired, changing the rollsigns if a route terminates (or short turns) at that station.

    Then there is the cost of changing it all back. Imagine that that terrific suggestion of ‘Dairy Queen’ and ‘Burger King’ did come to pass. But for some reason ‘Dairy Queen’ doesn’t renew. Burger King would certainly insist that all mention of its rival be removed at once, because they wouldn’t want to be paying the TTC for publicity that Dairy Queen is now getting for free.

    I haven’t mentioned the cost of resetting all the electronic visual and audio aids, such as the signs of the front of the TR trains and the ‘arriving at’ announcements, as these should be relatively minor and easily included in the station refurbishment cost. However, the TTC would have to be much faster at changing them than they have been in fixing the announcements on the western end of the 512 St Clair.


  13. The obvious choice for any potential sponsor would be to sponsor a new station on the Spadina extension so they aren’t saddled with inferior facilities.

    Steve: The stations on the existing system were new and clean, if not exactly architectural wonders, once upon a time.

    One question is whether the cost would be cost effective to the sponsor versus the cost of buying advertising within the station (which would, arguably, be more visible and capable of delivering an advertising message, rather than just a station name) – or would sponsorship automatically grant rights to use the advertising billboards in the station – or alternatively – prohibit all other competing advertising (an ad-free station)?


  14. Note that I wouldn’t put naming rights in the same category as a public amenity contribution (i.e. to pay for construction costs of the station). Naming rights are simply another form of advertising and are transitory since they are for a fixed term. And as other cities have experienced, no sponsor will simply buy any station’s naming rights – it needs to be relevant.

    For example, College Station could be renamed College Park Station, or Dundas could be renamed Eaton Centre Station.

    Now, this whole scheme would not, presumably, retroactively charge Union Station, St. Andrews Church, Osgoode Hall, St. Patrick’s Church, Queen’s Park or ROM for the past benefit of naming rights.


  15. How much do the “station domination” campaigns bring in? You’re getting the logo and ad copy plastered on every possible surface in some cases, from steps, to floors, to walls (what’s left of them) and ceilings? How much more would a station renaming be worth compared to say having a station “dominated” for 365 days a year? Are station stop announcements and logos on official maps worth it? If so, why did the TTC and other transit agencies remove ad space from their system maps? (Remembering the Yellow Pages and Royal Bank -dominated Ride Guides and earlier maps with ads for pizza joints and fence installers).

    Would other ad revenue streams decrease in value, such as exterior bus and streetcar posters and wraps? Or interior ads? Or even poster space at stations no corporation would want? I doubt, in the end, it’s worth the money spent by staff to prepare the reports.

    At least streetcar and bus wraps don’t cover every window with the screens anymore – I found those difficult to see through and a potential factor for motion sickness, even I feel somewhat uncomfortable if I don’t see unobstructed forward movement if on a jerky, road vehicle (I can stomach backwards/inside angles better on smoother rail vehicles).


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