Public(ity) Transportation Funding

It struck me the other day: when I saw some ad on TV for some monster truck show that was going to playing at Oracle Arena, HP Pavillion and Monster Park, it took me a while to remember they were Oakland Coliseum (Arena), San Jose Arena, and Candlestick Park.

Public institutions selling the naming rights of an event center has become very widespread in the past 10-15 years as a lucrative evenue source.

HP Pavilion was actually the Compaq Center before Compaq got bought out by HP. Shoreline Amphitheatre was at one point known as ‘Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View presented by The [San Francisco] Chronicle.’ The freeway exit sign was just as unwieldy.

Caltrans, as with any public agency, is also strapped for cash. Maybe they should consider getting into the same racket of selling names of interchanges or freeways in a similar fashion, and make some money to pay for fixing potholes, adding loop detectors, installing landscaping and soundwalls, etc.

There are currently portions of freeways named for historic or military figures, or law-enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. In a couple of cases there are sections named after living people, such as Sig Sanchez and Quentin Kopp, both political figures. I guess they keep their fingers crossed that they don’t go around doing anything scandalous for the rest of their life!

(Cupertino was contemplating putting the name of the private citizen donor on a plaque outside the new community center building after he offered to donate $250,000 to the library . . . until they found out he was Chinese. “We don’t know who these people are. When we allow someone to put their name on a public building paid for with taxpayers’ money, how do we know what they’re going to do in the future?” said a Cupertino city council member [Cupertino Courier 4/16/03 and 3/3/04])

Caltrans also has ‘Adopt a Highway’ schemes for local groups to sponsor. One on 101 just south of San Francisco was ‘Robin Williams’. My friend at Cal got his fraternity to sponsor a stretch near University Ave on I-80 in Berkeley. But these are small fry.

Why ‘waste’ a name on a historic figure like James Lick or Chester Nimitz, from whom you can’t get a single red cent, when we could have the Google interchange (Shoreline/101) or NUMMI freeway (880 in Fremont) and tap into their deep, deep pockets. I’m sure Cupertino and Apple could work something out as the iPod interchange at 85/280.

After all, the free publicity these companies would get from all those TV and radio traffic updates mentioning their interchanges would be worth so much; buying air time is not cheap.

(Changing of names over time is a bit of a hassle, but we deal with it. AT&T ParK is the third name for the Giant’s ballpark, even though it’s the same corporate entity that’s sponsored it since the start. Besides, in Santa Clara County, the names of major roads change over place, i.e. Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, De Anza Blvd and Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road are all on the same straight-line segment. Sheesh. I’ve lived here for almost ten years and I still can’t get the names of these roads straight. )

VTA could do something similar, selling naming rights of the light rail stations for a lower price (since they get much less mention in traffic reports). Besides, most of the current names are geographically meaningless, since they’re named after the obscure cross streets. For instance, you wouldn’t really know where to get off for Montague Expressway along the Guadalupe line by looking at the route map. It’s Orchard station. How many people know where of Orchard Road in San Jose? They could have sold the naming rights to Raza, which occupied a distinctive black monolithic building on the corner of Montague and First.

Likewise Vienna Station and Reamwood Station should have been named West Lawrence and East Lawrence stations respectively. Better yet, VTA could have named Vienna the Casa de Amigos / Plaza Del Rey station and bought themselves some goodwill during the development of the Tasman West light rail through here. Reamwood could have been named Pho Queen station. To their credit VTA didn’t make the same mistakes on the Alun Rock line, all the stations are named after recognizable major streets like Hostetter and McKee.

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