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Boston’s MBTA Should Avoid Selling Naming Rights of Subway “T” Stops

Letter Describes Advertising’s Harmful Effects on Developing Children

WASHINGTON - The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) should not move forward with plans to sell corporate naming rights to subway “T” stations, Public Citizen said in a letter sent today to the agency.

Any names attached to public sites and services should reflect history and honor civic virtue – not crass commercialism, the letter said. MBTA’s previous attempts to sell naming rights to Boston’s T stations have not been successful, and in other cities, transit naming rights have not yielded significant revenues. Whatever MBTA would be able to raise likely would be a drop in the bucket when compared to the reported $150 million deficit the agency faces in fiscal year 2013.

“Which corporations will co-opt citizens into their advertising schemes? Will it be ones that contribute to marketing-related diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and smoking-related illnesses? Or will subway riders travel to stations named for corporate felons, big business cheats or major polluters?” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “When a public service is named for a commercial interest, the city is explicitly endorsing the products or services associated with that name. These long-term ethical and social concerns must take precedence over the desire for a quick buck.”

Added Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert project, “Americans already face a deluge of advertising everywhere they go. In the historic city of Boston, citizens should be shielded from confronting the names of products and brands that not only are a nuisance and drain on our culture, but also are often injurious to our health.”

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