SEPTA must replace all the signs that say 'AT&T' with ones that say 'NRG'

For the next two months, SEPTA crews have their work cut out for them. Along the entire Broad Street Line, there are nearly 7,000 signs, decals and maps that need to be replaced.

A few weeks ago, the transit authority signed a contract with NRG Energy to rename the southmost stop on the Broad Street Line. NRG’s five-year sponsorship officially kicked in Tuesday afternoon, replacing SEPTA’s previous one with AT&T.

Fresh signage at NRG Station Credit: Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

For at least the next five years, the BSL stop originally known as Pattison Station will be renamed for the New Jersey-based integrated energy company. The NRG folks forked over $5.3 million for those naming rights, and SEPTA will receive 85 percent of the revenue.

The renamed station will feature some new amenities:

  • Display screens with SEPTA updates and alerts
  • Interactive, touch-screen maps to help riders navigate public transit
  • Kiosks to dispense portable cell phone chargers

The chargers can be picked up and returned for about $4 at six stations: the NRG, City Hall, Olney, Frankford and 69th Street subway stations and the Regional Rail’s University City Station. They have to be returned by 9 p.m. the next day, and if they’re not returned within a week, NRG will charge you $40 (and you can keep the charger).

NRG VP and General Manager Mike Starck, left, demonstrates the kiosk that dispenses portable cell phone chargers. Credit: Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

Replacing thousands of signs

Overall, the name change is going to take some effort.

If you ride the Broad Street Line — which we just did, the whole way — you’ve probably noticed that nearly every station teases the ultimate stop. There are 21 BSL stops north of NRG Station — all of which have the now-outdated AT&T name on signs, decals and maps.

Switching all that over will take some time, some cash and some serious elbow grease.

Exactly how many signs will need to be replaced? Per SEPTA officials, there are approximately 800 placards due for an upgrade. Each one costs SEPTA about $60, so that switch will run the transit authority $48,000 in materials.

“This is for all wayfinding signage,” said SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch, “which would include any sign, decal or other item that refers to AT&T, both at the station and elsewhere on the system.”

The BSL’s Fairmount Station teases to the ultimate stop, formerly known as AT&T Station. Credit: Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

Then, SEPTA will have to fork over another $97,000 to reprint the 6,000 existing BSL route maps in stations and inside train cars — all of which proudly display the AT&T name.

Luckily, all of this is built into the budget. Every five years, the transit authority plans to spend some money on sign upgrades. The BSL was technically due for an upgrade two years ago — but officials postponed the job it in anticipation of a new partnership.

“We were slightly overdue for a refresh,” Busch said, “but it wouldn’t have made sense to do it before we reached a new naming agreement.”

Working for the next 60 days

SEPTA held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in NRG Station Tuesday afternoon, marking the official switch.

But for the rest of the BSL, there’s so far little evidence Pattison Station has a new name.

Express subway stops seem to require the most work — stations at Olney, Girard, Spring Garden, City Hall and Walnut-Locust still proudly display 30-plus bright orange overhead signs and maps directing riders to AT&T Station.

And then there are the half dozen local stops, which display at least a couple maps displaying the AT&T name. In North Philly, think Wyoming, Hunting Park and Allegheny. And on the south side of the city, there’s Lombard-South, Ellsworth-Federal, Tasker-Morris and Snyder.

Just a mile away from Tuesday’s grand renaming celebration, there were at least 15 signs and four maps untouched at Oregon Station, the BSL’s penultimate stop.

AT&T signage at Oregon Station on Tuesday afternoon Credit: Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

Per SEPTA officials, this isn’t out of the ordinary. It’ll take the transit authority at least 60 days to make the full switch. The transit authority will work with Intersection — its partner advertising agency — to get all the work done.

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...