Tuesday, September 30, 2014

that train don't stop here anymore

SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (under its original name, Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, a misnomer if there ever was one) began operation of the Broad Street subway line in 1928. Stations were added southbound until its final destination, Snyder Avenue, opened in 1938. Thirty-five years later, a new final destination was tacked on to the end of the line. Pattison Avenue station, in South Philadelphia, served the budding sports complex area, offering convenient access to the home fields of the city's professional sports teams — the  Phillies, the Eagles, the Flyers and the 76ers,

The station formerly known as "Pattison"
After another thirty-five years, Pattison Avenue station, so named because it is located on (surprise!) Pattison Avenue, was rechristened "AT&T Station," under a naming rights deal between the financially-strapped SEPTA and the communications giant. The agreement netted SEPTA two-million dollars. In exchange, huge "AT&T"s would grace the station's facade for five years, confusing commuters unfamiliar with street names in South Philly and the order of stations on the subway route. There is no "AT&T" Street and there is no AT&T building or headquarters anywhere in the area. I don't think there's even an AT&T cell phone store nearby. And, whether SEPTA likes it or not, people still call it Pattison Station.

Well, the good folks at SEPTA are at it again. On September 4, 2014, Market East (which is located on Market Street), a major station on the heavily-traveled regional rail system, was renamed "Jefferson Station." Thomas Jefferson University Hospital paid an undisclosed amount for naming rights for an undisclosed period of time. At the big media event that was staged for the re-dedication, SEPTA general manager Joseph M. Casey said, with a forced smile upon his face, "Jefferson Station is a major transportation hub for Philadelphia area residents who are patients, employees and students of nearby Jefferson Health System facilities and Thomas Jefferson University, Because so many people use SEPTA to get to their Jefferson destination, renaming the station is a natural fit." That, of course, is corporate bullshit. I should know. I hear corporate bullshit everyday.

I ride the train to and from work everyday. On my commute home on September 4, the train's PA crackled with the uneasy voice of a conductor announcing, "This stop - Jefferson Station," quickly followed by "Um, formerly Market East. 'Jefferson Station' is the new name for Market East." The next morning, and every morning after that, a similarly awkward announcement was made by the conductor on duty. For nearly a month, the previously short "This stop - Market East" has now become a lengthy explanation that, at certain moments, borders on apology.

Yesterday, on my ride in to work, a particularly zealous conductor came on the loudspeaker and articulated the exact and unmistakable location of the train.
"Attention, passengers, this stop is Jefferson Station. Jefferson Station is the new name for Market East. This station is Jefferson Hospital Station. Jefferson Station, this stop. Market Street, The Gallery Shopping Mall, historic sites and links to the PATCO High-Speed Line to New Jersey. Market East is now called Jefferson Station. Jefferson Station is the new name for Market East. Once again, this stop is Jefferson Station."
The poor guy made his point and delivered his message using every possible combination of the words "Jefferson," "Station," "Market" and "East." I believe his announcement continued until we reached the next station, Surburban Station.

At least that's what it's called for the time being.

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