This would mean any number of brand names could come to precede or overtake the titles of our supposedly beloved stops. Is there anything loss in doing this? Are public ideals and self-sustaining efforts undercut by reaching out to profitable investors? For some, this curiosity represents a dwindling image, a resignation to the plights of privatization for the TTC. The invasion of advertising and the reduction of the rider as a base, robotic consumer is largely the area of concern. The TTC is foremost a public domain in the minds of many and should protect the interests of its riders.
Yet, is there any interest to begin with? It seems riders only perceive their surroundings subconsciously, not overly engaged by the images that pervade their daily commute. Observation suggests a desire to escape, not out of any real distaste, but rather disregard. Newspapers and idle gazes are the primary transcending portals of separation, yet suffer from the very grips of commerce that strangle each rider’s subterranean reality. If there were not advertisements, there would still be advertisements--on clothes worn, phones talked on and in the conversations of fellow riders. We are advertisements, and in this sense, we have truly accepted the unconquerable perils of external force.
The question as to how much revenue this new initiative will generate is still open and results might be overwhelmingly uninspiring. After all, how lucrative can a station’s name truly be? Cash is cash, though, and the TTC needs it . Riders care less about what they see and more about what they pay. This is not to say that these efforts would heal the wounds of climbing fairs and less than favourable service, but it is a step toward renovation. Private sponsors could also recreate the aesthetic of their newly acquired asset by funding design and renovation that would certainly not be possible through public support.
Are advertisements offensive? Yes, but we have learned to live with them. If relying on them is shameful, we should all be ashamed. The idea of getting off at a blatantly commercialized stop does seem less than charming, but the subway is not a charming environment. It is strictly mechanical. It is public, but not entirely and seems to become less and less each day. The TTC has already plunged into the spiraling descent of corporate consumption, and might as well embrace the complete overturn of its irrefutably dilapidated system through simply innocent means.
The con, by Yukon Damov
The City of Toronto is in a fiscal mess, as is the TTC; this is the basic financial reality of our city and transit system. Most, but not all, of the responsibility for providing solutions to these problems lies with these two entities. There are many options and better alternatives to simply selling-off assets and naming rights. But the question ought not to be reduced to economics. Also at stake is the quality and nature of our public realm.
Depending on the value of naming rights, selling them may turn out to a sound decision. Maybe fares will stay at their current price; maybe stations will be better maintained; maybe services will improve or not decrease. Until a decent estimate is presented, it is not known whether the revenue will help in any case. Considering that the entire advertising revenue provides $15 million for the TTC and the farebox provides $941.5 million, perhaps one can speculate that naming rights for ill-maintained stations will provide a negligible, although permanent, revenue stream.
Something intangible is lost in selling the naming rights of a station. No longer is a station in an abstract way a space that is collectively ours, or mine, or yours. As its defining label, we give the entire space only partly to a corporation, so that we’re walking in a place that is oddly ours and not-ours. It’s a compromise that creates a limbo. Obviously the corporation does not own the space, but perhaps neither do we, and such a blurring of private and public space suggests an inclination towards the private rather than the public. Implicitly we would be drawn towards the consumer of our selves as well as the citizen perhaps without really realizing it, where before the consumer part of ourselves was clearly denoted when directed towards advertisements. Give the station completely to a corporation, if money is what is needed.
Most importantly, the City and the TTC must continue to address its structural fiscal problems, of which most of the responsibility lies with the provincial government. As has been better expressed before, uploading during the Harris years wreaked havoc on the city’s and the TTC’s fiscal structure. The TTC once had fifty-percent of its operating budget from the province, but now that subsidy has been greatly reduced, leaving it in the situation it is in. The province must absorb more of the TTC’s budget if, in the long term, the TTC can provide current, let alone, improved service. Selling of naming rights or anything else would be only a bandaid solution.
Since the last election campaign, at least, Mayor Rob Ford has been committed to a certain type of governance regarding the city’s economics. While referring to the city’s debt load and the taxation policies of his predecessor, Mayor David Miller, he has plainly expressed his preferred ideology as one of small governance and low taxation, placing himself in opposition to Mr. Miller. On such a platform was he elected and in some sense the debate over privatization was decided last fall. Despite the results, the debate must continue, his views must be challenged and criticized, especially because they are not in the best interests of the city.