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Editorial

Selling the names of T stations cheapens the public realm

The importance of naming rights has long been evident in Massachusetts. From Harvard College (named in 1636 for the young minister who bequeathed his 400-volume library and £779 to the fledgling school) to Fenway Park (named to promote the Fenway Realty Company, whose owners bought the land on which the stadium was built), prominent facilities have often borne the names of private benefactors or sponsors. But it doesn’t follow that every public space ought to be turned into a billboard, and not every public surface is appropriate for a corporate advertiser’s logo.

The MBTA is proposing to sell naming rights for 11 Boston subway stations, among them Downtown Crossing, South Station, and Park Street. The plan would raise an estimated $18.4 million per year, or $147 million over the eight-year duration of the naming contracts. The name of the sponsor would be added to a station’s existing name, so that passengers might find themselves (for example) taking the Green Line to Dunkin’ Donuts Park Street Station, then switching to the Red Line to get to Liberty Mutual South Station.

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