Chicago Auctions Subway Names

  • Soon, Chicago’s public transportation system will have names such as ‘McDonald’s Line’ and ‘IBM Station’. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is about to organize an auction for companies enabling them to buy names of subway lines and stations as promotion for their brands.

    “CTA President Richard Rodriguez announced Wednesday that the perennially underfunded transit agency will go out for bids soon to sell naming rights to just about anything it owns and for which others are willing to pay big money in exchange for the public exposure. That includes rail lines and stations, bus routes, retail concessions, and special events. Even the venerable CTA logo will be on the auction block.”

    As GOOD reports, the idea comes from a recent collaboration CTA had with Apple. Apple invested 3.6 million dollars in the transformation of a subway station which contains an Apple store. The station, officially called North/Clybourn, was named Apple Stop during the opening of the store.

    Sponsoring of public infrastructure in metropolitan areas is an emerging trend. Before we already reported about London’s super cycling highways sponsored by the British consumer bank Barclays. In exchange for their sponsorship, all bike lanes were painted Barclays blueDubai is already experimenting with sponsored subway station names. Doing so, 10% of the complete construction costs of the subway system were covered. Most critics would argue that brand intervention in public facilities is not good from a principal point of view. On the other hand, the benefits are clear, as long as the revenues result in better transportation services. An interesting counter argument comes from a commenter on the GOOD website, putting forward questions about the usability issue: how confusing will the system become? Will standard labeling and system structures remain in place? What about people who already use the system, but have to re-learn the naming conventions? Open for discussion here.