Friday Question of the Day – Is Selling Naming Rights to Metro Stations a Good Idea?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Sandra Sitar

It’s long been known that metro’s budget is facing tough times. As I mentioned yesterday, they even seem to be looking the other way on questionable ads. A reader writes:

“[From U Street Metro] The first sign you see on your way in is Metro’s “this is not a diner” anti-eating/drinking campaign. The second one you see is this one, essentially telling people to bring their Green Mountain coffee on Metro.”

On Thursday TBD reported:

“Metro CFO Carol Kissal said this morning that the agency is considering selling to corporations the naming rights to Metro stations. She said the move could bring in up to $2 million to the cash-strapped agency.”

This almost sounds like a joke but if it’s actually being considered – I gotta ask – do you think it’s a good idea?

Also who do you think would have the deep pockets to purchase a name? Well there are 86 stations so that would come to roughly $23,000 for a metro station. And how would it work – would it be something like, “next stop Georgia Ave/Petworth” sponsored by The House? Next stop “Columbia Heights sponsored by Ellwood Thompson’s Target”?

65 Comment

  • Bad idea. What happens if a company chooses not renew leasing the naming rights? Metro will have to spend how much money changing signs and brochures?

    It doesn’t sound like a viable idea plus it is more pandering to corporations.

  • i’m totally cool with it. i’d rather have a working escalator. innovative, though admittedly tacky, way to raise revenue.

  • hell no.
    they should put advertising on the outside of the train cars before they rename stations.

    in fact, names should all be changed to be un-hyphenated and simple.

  • it’s a bad idea. period. The point of a station name is to let you know where you are. Meet me at Columbia Heights Station. er, Tostitos Station. er, well, it was Tostitos last month… maybe it’s the Mountain Dew Thirst-Quencher Station now?

    Also, there’s no way $2 million could be the right price – that’s comically low, even for such a terrible idea (as alluded to above, that probably wouldn’t cover the cost of the signage). Metro’s talking about what, a nearing $100 million shortfall right? What possible use is the extra $2 million.

    I wonder how much money Metro could save by not having terrible ideas like this one?

  • This is profoundly dumb. There are way better ways to get revenue. someone mentioned outside-train adverts. that’s a great idea.

  • We already sold our souls with “Reagan National”. 😉

    I kid you, my Republican friends. Seriously, I’m just giving you a little bit of a hard time as worthy competitors.

  • $23k per station? That’s crazy-cheap. I might buy one for that.

    I thought I heard that Metro charged American University $1M to add AU to the Tenleytown stop name.

  • @Tres: No, that disgraceful and obscene name, which I refuse to use, was imposed on National Airport by a Republican-controlled Congress. It was straight-down command. No souls were sold or paid for. (Republicans, after all, entirely lack not only souls of their own but also any interest in giving money to people who do have them.)

    @WDC: I’m very skeptical of the rumors that the local universities paid money to get their names on stations. Some of them (e.g. Gallaudet) don’t even have that kind of money. Rather, it’s simple politics. Universities are major business operations (GWU is the largest non-government employer in the District) and very influential opinion-shapers as well as generators of significant transit ridership and general economic activity; politicians will happily _give_ such institutions things like their names on stations.

  • Next stop, PoP El Norte, mon

  • please lets raise funds to name the station petworth/popville

  • If WMATA was not responsible for so many deaths, we could laugh at their buffoonery. From the Pope Bobblehead video ad, to the workers pissing on the tracks, this is not funny! But they have destroyed our transportation system. The obnoxious door bongbongbong, the inferior lighting, the constant PR campaigns to hide their unsafe procedures. The people of the DMV area must demand that the board, managers and any of the gold bricking personel get FIRED. Make way for a common sense leadership and supervisors, who don’t spend the day thinking up such obnoxious garbage when they need to run our metro. Stop the immoral overdevelopment, SAVE THE BROOKLAND GREEN!!

  • sell the rights to a hyphenated addition to the stations. then make the metro drivers really sell it when they call out the next station stops.

    U Street-Cardozo-African-American Civil War Museum-Solly’s, Home of Garageabilly Night and Four Dollar American Drafts!

    Tenleytown-American University-Guapo’s Fine Tex-Mex Cuisine! – Hudson Trail Outfitters, spend your giftcard now on some beautiful new snowshoes!

    And you know some of those metro train operators can really belt out the next station information and the stuff about not leaving your explosives/backpacks on the train.

    • ah

      I think we should take it back to the first hyphen and let AU and the AACWM pay up as well. It will make people think twice about lobbying for the tack-on names.

      Adams-Morgan: I’m looking at you.

  • Trojan Center? Olde English east and West? At least you’d know what kind of neighborhood you’re in by the marketing.

  • Watch out, here begins a slippery slope.

    Hell no. Keep It Simple Stupid. Use the place names for straightforward non-vain information. Watch out for Republicans who will want to name things like “Tom Delay” station.

  • This figure has to be off. It’s 100k to buy all the ads in a metro. There’s no way it would be LESS to own the naming rights.

    • plus it costs over 200k just to redo all the signage and maps and everything.

    • Maybe they mean they would *clear* $23k per station? That is, the corporate sponsor pays for all the sign changes and whatnot, plus about $23K?

      Still too cheap.

  • I’m pretty sure they meant $2 million PER STATION, not for the whole system.

  • Awful idea, and considering metros comically poor marketing and advertising program it doesn’t surprise me that their staff thinks 23K per station is the going rate.

    Considering the traffic through the system, the going rate per station should be in the 1-1.5 million per station, per year range, with a minimum of a 10 year contract. For 860 million over 10 years, I could get over the tackiness of it all.

    Cover every train, front to back with ads, leave the already unwieldy names alone.

    If they actually do put the naming rights up for 23K a piece, I will buy the rights to one just to make a point.

    • Hell, if we could pool the $2M, we could actually just go ahead and shorten all the names like everybody’s been hankering.

      Actually, heck with it. I’m taking a sub-prime loan and making them all longer. Hello, Columbia Heights-Mt. Pleasant-Park View-Pleasant Plains-TIVOLI NORTH BITCHES-Best Buy.

    • That pricing sounds about right, but let’s charge more for Smithsonian than the others. That one might be worth 10 million to Pepsi or Nike, to target fat walleted vacationers. Maybe Facebook — great tie in with the area where the most (tagable) pictures are taken every year.

  • A whole two million to make everything uselessly more complicated and aggravating?

  • “Next stop, McDonald’s Gallery Place Station…”

    Ugh. I can hear it now.

  • dear metro,
    be less sucky, you’ll save money. fire managers when people die, you’ll save money. fire station managers that refuse to aid people that need help, you’ll save money. fight crime, you’ll save money. install stairs and regularly clean and sanitize the elevators, you’ll save money. dismantle the goddamned union already, you already know how much money you’ll save.

  • This is beyond silly. If it would raise enough revenue to make the system better, then maybe it would be a step they would have to make. However, they’d rename the stations and we’d still have the same crappy system – except now it would be confusing and sound ridiculous.

  • WMATA’s budget deficit in FY 2011 is $189 million. Even if this idea brought in 10 times the expected amount, it would barely make a dent.

    • ah

      So an idea that makes up 10% of the deficit should be rejected because it barely makes a “dent”? It may be a sucky idea, but if it brought in $20m that’s worth thinking about it.

      • Yeah, OK, if it was really going to bring in $20 million, it’d be worth thinking about. But the estimate is $2 million. Hardly worth all the confusion and annoyance this would likely cause. This is not the kind of big-picture thinking Metro needs.

  • we should just name them after our corporate masters free of charge! If our offering is pleasing to them, maybe they’ll dispense a few ducats to our poor, wretched metro system. Hear my cry, o munificent overlords!

  • This idea sucks.

    The names of stations could change every year or whatever random time frame that is in the contract. That’s helpful for tourists and people new to the city. NOT.

    One thing that I saw in London’s Tube was they had many more advertisements running up and down the escalator walls but were much smaller (likely with smaller price tags) than the large billboards. This would give other types of business advertising possibilities that wouldn’t because the big ones are more expensive than they want to pay.

    Also, does Metro try to sell to local business near a particular station, or do they only want to sell to the big national and big local advertisers? A small advertisement for a local restaurant/store at the station you would use could be another avenue.

  • Terrible, terrible idea.

    What happened to the animated advertising between Metro Center and Gallery Place?

  • Strangely enought, I saw the Coraline one yesterday….That’s from 2 years ago.

  • Maybe instead corporations can sponsor the elevators and escalators. The money going towards keeping them up and running. Like the Dupont Circle escalator can be sponsored by Krispy Kreme’s. And the Foggy Bottom one can be sponsored by GWU or Starbucks….

  • here are the new station names:

    Walmart I
    walmart II
    walmart III
    walmart IV
    walmart 5
    Aol 2.0
    NRA Reloaded
    6th and Rhode Island Crew
    Ted Leonsis
    Ronald Reagan Memorial Station
    Lockhead- We never forget who we’re working for
    Washington Post- If you don’t get it, they’ll be another train in 45 minutes
    Union Carbide Station
    Peoples Republic of China
    the Bill and Melinda Gates Station
    Cool Disco Dan
    Cheese -Glorious- Cheese

    • Bad Brains Station (formerly Federal Triangle)
      Fugazi Station at Farragut Park
      Trouble Funk Station (I personally think Trouble Funk is such a great name that the entire Metro system should be called Trouble Funk Rails).

      And the orange line:
      Thievery Corporation Station
      Virginia Coalition (formerly Vienna)

      And on and on and on…

  • Since Chinatown, Pentagon City and Farragut are already outdoor shopping malls, I really don’t have a problem leasing those out to corporations.

  • This is just plain silly. Metro needs a serious overhaul in management if these are the ideas coming out of the board meetings.

  • I look forward to getting of the train at Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator Station

  • A few years ago I my company was involved in a real estate deal with Metro and some of their marketing folks sat in a couple of the meetings.

    I told them at the time that replicating the Vegas Fremont Street experience in the retangular indentations of the vaulted station ceilings would be an enormous advertising boon.

    Place a lcd tv in each space, there would be hundreds of them the length of the station, have them all work as one large TV screen on the ceiling that could constantly scroll silent commercials or ads all day.

    Metro could advertise dozens of companies per staion, all day long rather than pasting up posters for one on the walls.

    Metro could even use it to scroll system info, updates, news etc too.

    It wouldn’t bother those who want to adhere to the strict architectual design because the lcd’s would be recessed and can be turned off or even removed if need be.

    Metro doesn’t even have to pay to install or maintain. Enter into an agreement with some marketing firm that pays to install and maintain the system for a portion of the revenue. Everyone wins.

    I’d probably start with Metro Center and Gallery Place because of all the foot traffic those stations get, and if it was succesful they could expand from there.

    Alas, no one ever listens to me anyway.

    • Interesting. But no.

      The stations are a landmark. More billboard kiosks would be fine, but using the vaulted ceilings would be akin to ads on the Washington Monument, imo.

    • I’d go for some form of this idea. Not only could it raise revenue, but it might increase ridership by giving some pizzazz to otherwise stark stations. Yes, the vaulted ceilings do have a certain beauty, but if I forget to bring reading material and find myself stuck at a Metro station for more than 10 minutes, then I find myself lamenting the lack of advertising in the stations. Well-done LCD ads could actually make the Metro stations more pleasant places to be – look at any modern sports stadium and note how much visual interest the moving ads create. Imagine Metro Center and Gallery Place having a bit of the feel of Times Square (aside from the incredibly crowded feeling that you generally get there), while at the same time generating enough revenue to have properly functioning escalators throughout the system!

  • 2 million dollars can run Metro for what? A week maybe? Dumb idea, it probably won’t happen anyway citing the infighting in the DC council and at Metro.

    It would also be totally silly to hear about an escalator accident, or train wreck at the McDonald Hamburgler Metro Stop.

    The movie Idiocracy is coming true I tell you!

  • Welcome to AOL Time Warner Taco Bell US Government Long Distance. Please say the name of the person you wish to call.

  • Been to Philadelphia lately? Pattison station was rebranded “AT&T Station.”

    Bad idea for too many reasons to count, many of which have already been recounted above.

  • While I dislike the idea of corporate sponsorship, the reality is our federal and local governments are accumulating debt at an untenable rate and the Metro doesn’t generate enough revenue to support itself. It is subsidized by DC, VA, MD and the federal governments (At least that’s what the internet tells me).

    No one wants to pay a higher fare so that the Metro can sustain itself. No one wants to pay more income taxes to subsidize the Metro and the idea of demanding “better management” isn’t working out very well so far.

    Until a better idea comes a long to get us closer to good fiscal health, I’d have to say I’m for it. Desperate times…

  • While I would have reservations about renaming the individual stations, and would worry that the resultant confusion might result in lower ridership which could offset the advertising revenue, I’d be perfectly happy to see the end-of-the-line destinations sold. I’d much rather take the Red Line toward, say, Black Entertainment Television than toward some faceless suburb (where the heck is Glenmont?). Naming the end destinations after corporations would likely even make them easier to remember (again, where the heck is Glenmont?). While renaming the middle stations probably wouldn’t drum up enough revenue to adequately compensate for the increased confusion or the loss of the sense of place, selling the naming rights to the ends of the line could be quite lucrative (and the far-flung suburbs have no sense of place anyway).

Comments are closed.