Last week the New York Times informed us that the ever opportunistic MTA is considering proposals to sell the "naming rights" of Subway stations to wealthy corporations (or possibly even extremely vain rich individuals) who would use the repurposed Subway nomenclature to advance their brand and remind us all how much they care.
Rather than reargue the time old philosophical questions of "What's in a Name?" I thought it might be more helpful to accept this inevitability with a forward thinking attitude and develop a set of rules for the process instead. The benefits for the sponsoring corporations (and rich people) are quite obvious in the form of advertising, brand marketing, and innervation into the New York City lexicon, but I think it's important that the benefits to Subway riders, the true owners of the MTA, be spelled out in clear detail so we know what to expect.
Here is a set of pre-requisite rules which would allow Taco Bell Station (and all renamed stations) to achieve its full potential for both corporate benefactor and Subway user.
1) The corporate sponsor shall provide a full-time, minimum wage + 50 percent (starting salary), 24 hour sanitation and janitorial service to its named station. This service will be held to a standard of cleanliness modeled after the Hong Kong and Singapore underground systems to ensure a pleasant and foul-odor-free experience to riders each and every day.
2) The corporate sponsor shall install state of the art speaker and public announcement systems in its named station staffed by multi-lingual round the clock attendant in a dedicated communications booth.
3) The corporate sponsor shall install an air conditioning and climate control system in its named station capable of digital regulation of temperature and humidity levels within the station to a range of 68 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit year round 24 hours a day.
4) Before a renaming ceremony may take place the corporate sponsor must resurface and/or replace all fixtures, tiling, surfacing, and aesthetic installations using modern wear resistant materials similar to those used in updating the Parisian Metropolitan with an eye for preserving the look of the subway's historical dignity.
5) The corporate sponsor must itself sponsor a local artist to create a new sculpture or piece of architectural art to be installed in the station and agree to commission another for every 10 years that that Subway bears the name of the corporation (or wealthy benefactor).
6) The corporate sponsor shall employ at any given time in a 24 hour period a minimum of two dedicated security officers to patrol and ensure the safety of riders at their station.
7) The corporate sponsor shall redesign existing and build from scratch where appropriate state of the art information booths to dispense up to the minute data to riders with interactive maps and displays to redirect passengers during system changes if the need arises.
8) The corporate sponsor will donate to a fund set aside to keep and maintain adjacent subway stations (including all relevant stations through which a subway must enter or leave from when departing or arriving at "named" subway station for every line the 'named' station services). This provision is not applicable if the adjacent subway station is also a corporate 'named' station.
9) The corporate sponsor will donate a band new, state of the art, subway car to the line(s) which its station services for every 10 years the "naming rights" are recognized starting in year one.
10) The corporate sponsor shall install LCD Televisions (minimum 42 inches) for every 100 feet of subway station platform for information dispersal and entertainment purposes. These televisions are prohibited from running advertisements for doctors' services, pawn shops, homeopathic remedies, pharmaceuticals, anal leakage counseling, vaginal reconstruction, pyramid schemes, land deals, politicians, or gambling institutions.
Normally the idea of renaming something after its official christening would be an idea abhorrent to my sense of tradition. People are still trying to figure out if the Freedom Tower is actually still called the Freedom Tower, and yesterday (in a moment of confused identification) I heard someone refer to it as "that thing over there."
But after reading over these rules for corporate sponsorship and seeing the ultimate benefit to subway riders, I support this idea 110 percent. It will help to bring the MTA in line with the world's modern transportation networks allowing the NYC Subway to sit more proudly next to systems in Paris, London, Tokyo, Madrid, Berlin, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Buenos Aires, and Sydney. Corporate sponsors advance their brand and riders receive the upgrades they long believed could never be possible. It's win-win for all parties involved!
I intend to be there for the grand re-opening of Taco Bell Station, as a new and magnificent chapter in the history of a proud, but somewhat misguided institution.