New Business for Apple: Subways

The Apple company has decided that electronics are not enough. They are bringing their design aesthetic to infrastructure. It was recently announced that Apple Inc. will put $4 million towards subway improvements at a specific station in Chicago (North and Clybourn station on the Chicago Transportation Authority’s (CTA) Red Line), where they would like to open a flagship store. This is the first time the CTA has resorted to private investment for the public service. In the deal, Apple gets the exclusive rights to buy all ad space in the station.

Via RailwayTechnology.com

Via RailwayTechnology.com

Logistics and design are not what is particularly important for our purposes. Corporate sponsorship of public entities that keep cities moving sustainably is the real issue.  On the one hand, there is no doubt that functioning public transportation systems are vital components to any big city. On the other, there seems to be an endemic problem with keeping them well funded and in good repair. Like New York’s transit authority, Chicago’s also has a huge budget shortfall.  This year’s projected deficit is $178 million.

Of course, this issue is complex. In the short term, stations in disrepair get funding, the straphanger does not get a rate increase and might even avoid that mystery liquid dripping from the ceiling. Private company gets their name out their (because Apple really needs help there…right?) and the transit authority chugs along. But what about long term maintenance? And from a more general sustainability standpoint, lots of advertising of the same products in one place = buying more products = more packaging = more waste = more landfilling = oh my.  And I know that this gets a bit meta, but it is a legitimate conundrum.  It is true that advertising exists anyway in subways, but I think we can expect that the advertising anti will be upped in here.

So, short answer, cheers to Apple for fixing a subway stop. But if this model is really going to get some footing as a legitimate alternative to public transportation funding, we need a more comprehensive, “Adopt a subway stop,” program, which sounds slightly sad even to say.  Here in New York, it seems like we are trying to share some ideas with London to get ourselves out of our deficit mess.  We might even be able to refill our metrocard online. What a novel idea! For an interesting talk with the new Chairman of the MTA, Jay Walder, check out Brian Lehrer’s interview with him. And hope that we don’t have the Anti-apple competing subway stop coming to our city soon.

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