November 7, 2010

Public/Private Partnerships for Transit

Interesting news coming out of Chicago, courtesy of the Streetsblog network. A few months ago, I noted that the Mayor Daley-privatized parking meters represented a potential of $9 billion dollars in lost revenue.

Now, the revenue is flowing into, not out of the city: Apple has plunked down $4 million to renovate the subway stop near it newest Chicago store. Blair Kamin covers it in his Cityscapes column. Powerwashing, new street level facades, new plaza + fountain and seating.



Sure, there's Apple-only (for now, at least?) advertising inside the station, and there's the postmodern specter of corporations owning ever greater parcels of public space and therefore eventually usurping your very consciousness, but ... this doesn't seem like a bad idea to me.

An article in the Chicago Tribune noted the station's context:
Even while the neighborhood took on a high gloss, the CTA station looked the way it had for decades — like the stop closest to the poverty of the Cabrini-Green housing project.
This could be an instance of a private entity moving in to upgrade a low-priority project ... granted, funds are tight for the CTA and transit agencies everywhere, but I wonder whether the projects deterred CTA investment in the station.

There's also talk of selling the station's official naming rights to Apple.

Hmm, maybe Zachary's Pizza could spruce up the Rockridge station ... I'm thinking a ski gondola, or Ooh! a zipline to the storefront would be sweet. And the Zachary's poster contests could be expanded to redecorate the station. Done.


  1. Lately I've been thinking that it might be a good idea to frame even the routine operations of transit agencies as a public-private partnership, since the term has so much feel-good appeal to a certain kind of person.

    After all, it's paid for by a mix of (public) tax revenue and (private) fares and advertising. Sounds like a PPP to me :)

  2. Ha, you are certainly right about the feel-good appeal to that certain type of person. Would be a good approach say, if talking to a business district that contains dilapidated transit. Like: leveraging (another good word) existing public private synergies (natch) to generate additional private investment ...