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Brand naming public assets shows lack of seriousness: expert

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – How would you feel about driving over the New Taco Bell Port Mann Bridge if it meant paying less in the way of tolls?

Washington State is so strapped for cash it’s looking at selling the naming rights of roads, bridges, rest stops, and scenic viewpoints to private companies. News1130 is exploring whether the idea would work here.

“It suggests a lack of seriousness,” says Gordon Price, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, after laughing out loud. “It suggests you are unable to establish priorities, you’re not prepared to pay for it and you’re not prepared to be adults about it.”

“[Transportation infrastructure] is critical to our economy and our way of life. If we don’t have the ability to actually pay for it, it says something more about our priorities than it does about being a logical way to make money, because it’s not going to make you very much,” he explains.

“It just digs you a little deeper in the hole and then you’re throwing in a bit of sand pretending that it’s not a problem. But it suggests that it really is,” he tells News1130.

“From what I know in Washington and Oregon, they’re not prepared to raise their gas taxes, they’re desperate to find other ways to maintain just what they’ve got, much less build new infrastructure, so they’re getting down to the crumbs,” Price describes.

Corporate names are already splashed across movie theatres, sports arenas, and office towers in Metro Vancouver and Price concedes it does work in some cases.

“It depends on what you’re trying to pay for. Advertising is commonly used, there’s no doubt about that, you see it plastered all over buses and Skytrain and Canada Line stations. The amount of money made is significant but I think there’s something different when you name a public asset with a private brand,” he adds.

“I suspect that’s one of the reasons it’s not called the Telus Gardens stadium and it’s still BC Place. It really says something about the culture, the people and the priorities,” Price says.

Translink’s 2013 base plan shows the transportation authority’s funding gap will be $472-million from 2013 to 2015.