The Transport Politic on Philly’s plan to sell station names

SEPTA has a proposal on the table to rename its Broad Street Station to AT&T station, along with Detroit’s plan to corporate sell a name for its street car. Yonah Freemark remarks:

But Philadelphia’s decision could be going further because not only does it remove the current name entirely from maps, but it does so to existing stations that have retained their current names for decades. Even worse, the names have no relevance to the areas they serve — it’s not like AT&T has a major facility at Pattison Station. The whole situation raises the frightening prospect in the near future that, instead of riding the Broad Street Subway from City Hall to Pattison, people will take the Coca-Cola Trolley from Pizza Hut to AT&T. Moreover, five years later, considering the current rate of changes in corporate names and sponsorships, all of those names may have to be modified! There are two fundamental problems with the idea that station names can be sold to the highest bidder: One, doing so challenges a fundamental element of transit service provision, that it is a public service; and two, that the names provide an important connection between the line-based geography of transit systems and the street or neighborhood-based geography of the city around stations.

link: Philadelphia May Accept Money to Privatize Station Naming; Pittsburgh Considers Similar Move « The Transport Politic

I don’t really have much to add to Freemark’s discussion other than expand it on this somewhat. He notes that it is confusing to riders and tourists to have to deal with an “AT&T station” in every city they encounter. But it’s also depressing. You get to a point where the built environment of cities gets so homogenized with corporate clutter than it doesn’t matter if you are in Boston or in New York or Shanghai: you’ll see the same brands all over. So instead of Candlestick, we have AT&T park, and instead of naming schools after luminary scholars, we name them after rich people who aren’t satisfied with having their companies and foundations named after them.

I wonder if anybody will ever give a naming gift for a bus seat?

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Freewaves and art on the bus

Last Saturday, my posse (ok, I don’t really have a posse, but work with me here) and I attended Video on the Loose, an exhibit of video art from Los Angeles’ Freewaves, a community-based organization in Los Angeles that tries to produce images in the public sphere from a variety of sources and artists and which is celebrating its 20th year in existence.

A new, very exciting, partnered project of theirs has just received funding:

Freewaves, Echo Park Film Center, Public Matters Group and UCLA REMAP receive $100,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for MetroVoice, an initiative to involve youth in writing and producing videos and TV screen text banners. The geo-coded messages will be transmitted on 2200 LA Metro buses, and explore aspects of the young participants’ families and neighborhoods.


My two companions were a bit mystified by the social significance of putting art on the bus. For those of us who have been in the transit business for awhile, the transgressive and social aspects to putting art on the bus, made by local artists, is probably pretty apparent. Public art tours on transit tend to focus on rail transit, with its higher socio-eonomic profile, riders, and audiences. Plenty of Los Angelenos are engaging with at LA-area TODs, dripping with design and art, without setting a foot on either the bus or the train, if the ridership numbers are believable. Putting art on the bus suggests engaging with those riders too often taken for granted by transit companies. Having it be art about the communities that the buses are traversing connects mobility with place; communities are no longer merely pass-throughs in the process of mobility.

It’s a very cool idea, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out.

Freewaves has produced a book and a dvd well worth investing in, see here.

Nora Ephron’s Urban Views

When you say Nora Ephron, I suspect that most people think “chick flick.” Intellectuals, in particular, are always very careful to say they don’t like her movies; and the same sorts of women who take pride in telling me they *hate* Jane Austen similarly take pride in telling me they *hate* Nora Ephron.

Well, I love Nora Ephron. I love her movies, and I really love her books. What I really love about Nora Eprhon is that her cities are part of her stories. How many truly beautiful movies of Baltimore have you ever seen? But the truth is, Baltimore has some absolutely lovely neighborhoods, and in Ephron’s capable hands, you get to see Kevin Lynch’s “Imagabilty” come to life on film. Baltimore, New York, Seattle, even LA–she can find the loveliness in just about any urban context.

From Sleepless in Seattle, Chicago:

From Sleepless, Seattle:

A gathering of women in one of those fantastic SF Valley backyards, from Bewitched:

One of those incredible LA west side homes, from Hanging Up:

There are almost too many to choose from the move You’ve Got Mail, which like many of Woody Allen’s films is as much of a love story about New York as it is a love story between two people:

Pritzker Price in Architecture

Cityscapes: Tokyo-based duo win Pritzker Prize; recent works include Glass Pavilion in Toledo, New Museum in Manhattan

I’m a bit late with commenting on this as the announcement was made last Sunday, but the Pritzker committee decided to honor the Japanese team Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa together for the award. I love their work, and I think this is an awesome choice. They have done some absolutely breathtaking work!