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Bloggers Weigh In On CTA Naming Rights Plan

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File photo of a Blue Line train.  (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

File photo of a Blue Line train. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) - Complaining about service or sharing stories about strange characters on CTA buses and trains is a favorite pastime for many Chicago bloggers.

And the revelation last week that the Chicago Transit Authority plans to sell naming rights to its assets has a lot of people talking. Some are throwing out not-so-serious suggestions for corporate names on the CTA, while others are weighing in on the wisdom of offering naming rights.

The CTA announced last week that it would issue a request for proposals for companies issued in naming rights. These could include rapid stations, bus lines or ‘L’ lines, but not only “hard assets,” CTA President Richard Rodriguez said at the time.

“It may be our name. Maybe our logo. There are tons of different things,” he said.

Rumors had circulated that the North/Clybourn Red Line subway station would reopen with “Apple” in its name, after Apple Inc. financed a public-private partnership to refurbish the station. Backlit Apple advertising and signage are now found all around the newly-reopened station, but it is still called North/Clybourn as of now.

But in an Oct. 22 column, Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich pointed out that Apple has expressed interest in having the station renamed the “Apple Red Line Stop” after investing almost $4 million in the renovation. The CTA will give the right of first refusal to Apple if it goes ahead with selling naming rights, Schmich reported.

The local blog Chicagoist says the renovated station with its “glorious plaza with free wifi” shows promise for the benefits of naming rights.

Chicagoist blogger Chuck Sudo went on to throw out a few ‘L’ line or station names that might roll off the tongue: the “Berlin (nightclub) Belmont “L” Station, Macy’s CTA Holiday Train, ‘Blue’ Line by American Express, Billy Dec’s Rockit Ranch Red Line” and the “Xindy Oriental Massage Halsted Orange Line Station.”

The Onion A.V. Club approached the naming rights story with a similarly jocular tone.

“Imagine riding the Lou Malnati’s bus to pick up the eBay line at the Attorney Peter Francis Geraci stop!” the A.V. Club wrote on Nov. 11.

The A.V. Club also joked that if other corporations do not follow Apple’s lead, “the door will be left wide open for disgustingly spoiled and woefully lonely high schoolers wanting to make a grand gesture for a crush’s affection. What girl could resist a pink line stop named after her? After all, prom is only seven months away.”

But some in the local blogosphere were not so amused by the idea. On the popular Tribune-ChicagoNow blog CTA Tattler, a reader expressed concern about eliminating street or neighborhood names at CTA stations in favor of corporate names.

“Selling naming rights is such a bad idea. I know they need the cash, but it comes at a huge cost for riders. The system will be so much more confusing if the stations and routes no longer denote their location,” the reader wrote on CTA Tattler. “I guess I can live with an Apple North / Clybourn stop, but just an Apple stop will be incredibly confusing.”

On the City-Data.com Chicago forum, a reader said he thought some past name changes on the CTA had already caused confusion – namely the change on ‘L’ lines from route names such as “Ravenswood” or “Lake-Englewood-Jackson Park” to color codes such as “Brown Line” and “Green Line.”

“Everybody knew damned well what the Lake St. El was and where it went; same for the Ravenswood, the Douglas Park, the Howard and so on,” he wrote. “I still get these new names confused; I don’t know why they thought the color scheme was a good idea.”

But another City-Data reader said new names could actually eliminate some confusion, since multiple ‘L’ lines have stops with the names of the same streets.

“Tell someone to get off at Damen and they’ll be scratching their heads wondering if you meant the Blue or Pink line. Tell someone to get off at the Western stop, they have about five different ‘Western’ stops to choose from,” the reader wrote. “(New names) might help to differentiate them a bit more. I know when I first moved here, I made similar mistakes.”

Awarding of corporate sponsorships could begin as early as next spring, once the opportunities have been packaged. Rodriguez also said last week that the CTA would listen to any reasonable outside idea.

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