What’s in a name?
For transit stations, quite a bit.
The Metropolitan Council says the name of a transit station should reflect local geography, such as a major cross street or landmark. The name should be easy to understand by the traveling public, especially those who are not familiar with the area. It should be succinct — generally, the use of two names for one station should be avoided. And the name of a station on one transit line should not be shared with another.
All of these guidelines came into play when Met Council transit planners contemplated the 15 stations along the Southwest light-rail line, which is scheduled to link downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie beginning in 2020.
Some comply, some don’t
In vetting the $1.79 billion project through committees and municipalities along the line, planners found that five stops (West Lake St., Beltline Blvd., Wooddale Ave., Louisiana Av. and Blake Rd.) are all consistent with major streets near the stations.
Another six stations — Downtown Hopkins, Shady Oak, Opus, City West, Golden Triangle and SouthWest Station — are consistent with existing landmarks, including a business campus, industrial park, city center or transit hub.
The Met Council will consider proposed changes to the four remaining stations at its Feb. 24 meeting. The Royalston station was changed to Royalston Ave/Farmers Market; Penn Ave. to Bryn Mawr, and 21st St. to West 21st St.
The outlier is the Van White station, primarily because it shares the same name with a proposed station at another location along the planned Bottineau Blue Line extension. There was no real consensus among Southwest light-rail stakeholders as to what the station should be called, but a recommendation is expected at the Met Council meeting later this month.
So far, naming rights have not been sold to corporate entities along the Southwest line, even though it’s rather close to several large employers.
But the practice isn’t unheard of here in the Twin Cities. Both Target Field station and the soon-to-be-renamed Downtown East station near U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis were part of naming-rights deals.
Met Council guidelines say if a station’s naming rights are sold, the new name “must continue to have a clear link to a nearby landmark or regionally recognizable destination.”
Elsewhere, naming rights are increasingly common in transit circles.
For example, a Brooklyn subway stop was renamed to Barclays Center after the banking giant paid New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority $4 million a few years back. Now, the stop is called Atlantic Av.-Barclays Center.
In Philadelphia, two transit stops were renamed — one is now the AT&T Station, and another is called Jefferson Station, named after a big hospital in the area.
Many transit advocates abhor the sale of naming rights for transit stations, saying advertising undermines the integrity of a public transportation system. But transit agencies say the extra cash can help with operating costs and station maintenance.