Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Should Metro Sell Station Naming Rights?

SEPTA's AT&T station, Philadelphia
For brave Washington Nationals fans travelling to Philadelphia to see the Nats vs Phils, here's a tip. You may be used to taking the subway to Pattison Avenue on the Broad Street line. But this year, you won't exit at Pattison Avenue station. This year you'll exit at AT&T station. Pattison Avenue station is no more -- for now.

In 2010, SEPTA --Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority-- agreed to rename the Pattison Ave station "AT&T" for 5 years. AT&T, as in the multinational telecommunications corporation, agreed to pay $5 million. 

In what seems like a relative steal, Barclays --the British financial services corporation-- agreed with New York's MTA to rename the Atlantic Av Station for a mere $4 million over 20 years. That will cost the bank $200,000 per year. The AT&T deal will cost $1,000,000 per year. In the case of MTA, the new station name is "Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr," but the maps will not include a corporate logo. As in Philadelphia, this New York subway stop is adjacent to a sports venue, the new Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets.

Will we eventually see this in DC? Oh boy. Please, no. Here are some scenarios.

When Metro solicited input for a series of small station name adjustments last year, some suggested that logos or pictographs be placed on the maps corresponding with various cultural sites and markers. One idea was placing the "curly W" of the Washington Nationals over the Navy Yard stop. OK. What if Metro charged the Nationals a small fee for that privilege, perhaps throwing in other services like a guarantee that Metro would remain open past closing for extra inning Nats games, the "Nationals After Hours" train. Branded, of course. How about a 20 years, $10 million. Better than the Jason Werth deal by about $100 million. Washington Nationals Station. Sorry historic Navy Yard.

Forest City is a large national real estate development and management company with a major presence in the DC area, including projects near the Southeast and Southwest waterfronts as well as Ballston Common Mall in Arlington. No more Ballston. Forest City Station on the Orange Line anyone? For, let's say, 10 years at $2.5 million.

Can't forget about Maryland. Goodbye Grosvenor-Strathmore Station. Hello Marriott Station. The international hotel giant is based in Bethesda, so let's cut them a deal: 5 year sponsorship including Marriott logo on all Metro maps for $6 million. 

Along with MTA and SEPTA, there was recent news that Chicago's CTA has opened bidding for corporate sponsorship of some operations. And earlier this year, Boston's MBTA made the same decision. That makes four major transit systems that have endorsed corporate naming rights. Does that mean we're closer here in WMATA land? I really hope not. I'd like to see the municipalities and the federal government agree to codified, guaranteed funding before we start selling off stations to the lowest bidder. Even if it did guarantee getting home after a thrilling late night Nats playoff win. I'd gladly pay the cab fare in lieu of having to disembark at DCUSA-Target-Columbia Heights Station. No way. What do you think? If you have suggestions send them my way @The42BusDC using #CorporateMetroNames.