With ridership falling, largely because of SafeTrack’s massive and costly rebuilding plan, the agency is looking at a $125 million hole this fiscal year. It anticipates a shortfall of $290 million in the next. Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld warned that all the one-off tricks to balance the books will soon be exhausted.
“This structural financial issue is getting to a point where we just can’t get much further,” Wiedefeld said.
So it was that Tom Bulger, who represents the District on the Metro board, said that the time had come to consider “draconian revenue enhancements.” He said that he had asked staff to look into the possibility of selling naming rights, along the lines of what Los Angeles is doing. In December, L.A.’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved the sale of naming rights of practically every part of the city’s transit system, the Los Angeles Times said.
“I just hope it’s not too awkward,” passenger Brian Bond told the paper. “Viagra? No, wait. Diapers.”
It’s worth noting that the Los Angeles transit agency turned to naming rights to avoid long-term operating deficits despite an increase in the sales tax for transportation projects, according to the Times. It also says it’s not clear how much revenue the naming rights will bring in.
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune posted a report Thursday saying that the Los Angeles transit system was reconsidering because of possible “free speech entanglements.” Think of what would happen if Chick-fil-A wanted to slap its name on a station in West Hollywood, a board member was quoted as saying.
Back on this coast, Metro board member Michael Goldman said he liked the idea.
“I think we should take advantage of all the opportunities that are out there,” said Goldman, who represents Maryland. “If the Nats want to call Navy Yard station Nats Park/Navy Yard, I think that’s a great idea,” he told reporters. “But all these things are one-shot opportunities.”
Personally, I’d rather see the Lerners use their money to make sure Bryce Harper doesn’t leave town after the 2018 season. But it’s probably just a matter of time before the auctioning off of public infrastructure to the private sector comes to Metro.
Still, would Verizon really take its brand — “Can you hear me now? Good.” — into subway tunnels that blot out every telephone signal or WiFi frequency, including Metro’s? Or FedEx, whose slogan “When there is no tomorrow” might seem more than a little ominous? That’s a company whose bottom line must have taken a hit from linking its name to Daniel Snyder’s defective football team.
On the other hand, when it comes to Metro these days, maybe Services Corporation International, a.k.a. Dignity Memorial, would be a good fit.
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