For several months, city hall observers, transit riders, and public-space activists have been watching with great interest as the TTC, and the municipal government more generally, have been moving towards a less restrictive policy for selling the naming rights to public spaces. If the Ford administration has its way, park playgrounds, public arenas, and subway station names may all soon be up for grabs. The goal, of course, is to increase revenues without raising taxes, and the question is whether trading identity for cash is a bargain we want to strike.
On the one hand, the City is distressingly behind in maintenance, basic upgrades, and state-of-good-repair work, and even if Ford and company hadn’t killed revenue-generating streams that were already in place, we’d still be facing major budget gaps. On the other: what binds us together as a city if not the spaces we share? Is giving up on the idea that parks should reflect their communities rather than the latest corporate sponsor really a concession we want to make? And more fundamentally: how committed are we to the ideal that public infrastructure should be payed for with public funds?
Today came news about the first potential test case for this new naming regime—and it’s far less commercialized than many were fearing. The proposal under consideration calls for Dundas Station, which lets out in part onto the Ryerson University campus, to somehow draw on Ryerson as a partner in a new name. (The most obvious candidate is “Dundas-Ryerson Station,” though we aren’t quite that far along in the process yet.)
At least—it’s far less obviously commercial. This naming proposal has the benefit that it is tied to a relevant institution—one that is proximate to the subway station in question—and that it is tied to an institution that has a public benefit, rather than being a purely commercial enterprise. However, it isn’t as though Ryerson itself would be ponying up the cash. Said Sheldon Levy, president of Ryerson: “If we could negotiate something and have our name on it, we would not be beyond looking to fundraise to make that happen.” Which is to say, it would still be commercial enterprises paying for basic improvements to public infrastructure, which is what at least some of the fuss is all about in the first place.
Does the name make a difference? Or is it the source of the cash that’s the real sticking point? Let us know what you think in the poll above.