What would you like to see from a TTC merch store?
Held on the day that service reductions were announced and a fare hike hinted at, the TTC's first public townhall meeting went down pretty much like you'd expect. Amongst the predictable complaints that were doled out (both in person and online), however, there was one that caught my eye. Someone on Twitter suggested that the TTC open a gift shop to generate revenue.
Some will know that the TTC did have such a thing until relatively recently. Operated by the now defunct Woodbridge-based company Legacy Sportswear, TTC Transit Stuff opened in 2006 and was pretty much a disaster from the get-go. The poorly branded swag and low visibility of the store/kiosk at Union Station conspired to make the whole enterprise counterproductive, and, as Torontoist reported at the time, it finally closed its doors in late May 2010.
With Legacy's licensing contract up at the end of the year, perhaps the TTC can make another run at it the concept — if not as a major revenue source, then as an opportunity to foster pride in the system and to build positive vibes around its brand. Other interested parties have done this well. Spacing's subway buttons have become a staple for Torontophiles and set the standard for how merch like this can work. Jonathan Guy's TTC font posters are a reminder that even the most basic components of our transit system can get people excited. DenizenTO t-shirts, meanwhile, show off that the entrepreneurial spirit of transit riders is ready to be capitalized upon should it be prioritized.
"There's something about a shirt (or even a canvas bag or mug) which carries immediacy, can be seen from a greater distance, can emote sentiment and loyalty to place, can be accessorized, and can be spontaneous conversation pieces — particularly abroad," explains Astrid Idlewild, designer of the DenizenTO swag. "That alone is a way to make the TTC brand more familiar to the world vis-Ã -vis TfL's London Underground, MTA's New York system, and even Tokyo's Metro and JR-Rail systems."
For its part, the TTC is interested in the idea, but thinks it has bigger fish to fry right now. "Selling merchandise, whether through a retail outlet or online, is something worth exploring and has been discussed, but not in great detail," TTC spokesperson Brad Ross told me by email this morning. "We'd have to look at a business model and see just how much money there is to be made. But our focus, right now, must be on improving the transit system and developing a multi-year funding strategy so we can deliver improved service."
It's tough to argue with the idea that the TTC needs to focus as much of its energy as possible on service, but service and branding might not be mutually exclusive categories when you really think about it. While slick-looking t-shirts and coffee mugs won't get your bus to the stop any faster, the drive to instill pride in the system — on the part of both its employees and its riders — would likely help improve the TTC experience in general by alleviating some of the contempt that seems to have crystallized over the last few years.
We asked out Twitter followers what they'd like to see from a TTC merch store last night. Here's what they came up with.
Lead image from Jonthan Guy
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