A Station by Any Other Name … On Re-Naming Philly’s Transportation Stops

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We all know, or at least Shakespeare has lead us to believe, that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet … but would it smell as nostalgic? That is a question drifting around Philadelphia these days, where several transportation spots are slated to be renamed.

The station formerly known as Market East will soon be re-named Jefferson Station. The change comes after Jefferson Hospital inked a deal with Titan (advertising for Septa).  SEPTA’s tight budget is no secret, and certainly bargaining with the naming rights of stations is a way to approach this fiscal issue. Press coverage, including some releases by Septa itself, have focused largely on Jefferson’s recent push to become more visible in the Philly healthcare market. Naming the closest station after the hospital can help cut confusion for arriving patients, and solidify Jefferson’s brand presence in the area. Seems like a win-win for both institutions.

However, the name deal is only for a few years, with an option to renew. So after five years, what happens to the name? Will it go back to being the bland but currently accepted Market East? Will Jefferson Hospital renew and continue the name in perpetuity? Will another school/company/organization take over the name-option and re-name the station something else entirely?

This is not the first SEPTA station to gain a new moniker – At&t station (formerly Pattison) is a relatively new addition to the southern end of the Broad Street line. Many cities also keep with the tradition of re-naming streets or plazas after famous figures. In fact, it was recently announced the 30th Street Station will be renamed in honor of William H. Gray III. That seemed to cause a fair amount of consternation as well. Not because the honor isn’t well deserved, but because 30th Street has always been, well, 30th Street.

With this flurry of renaming train stations, should we even consider whether there are downsides? After all, in a free market even names have a value and why not allow SEPTA to cash in on that value. (I’m all for improvements to the Philly subway system!) But in a city as historically rich as Philadelphia, carving names of landmarks (even just transportation stations) into five year deals seems disjointed. Maybe I’m just old fashioned at heart, but I’m imagining touring Philly with my future kids telling them “And this used to be Market East…”

If the venture proves successful, and with the At&t deal coming to a close, and the new deal with Jefferson about to begin, it appears that if SEPTA finds the prospect successful, we will have to wait and see if all SEPTA stops will have sponsorship in the future.

Or maybe people will just stick with saying the old names, no matter what the station signs say.

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