The CTA makes it official: will sell naming rights to almost anything

This has been in the works for a while (particularly with the revamped Apple stop at North and Clybourn on the Red Line) but the CTA officially announced today that it will solicit “bids soon to sell naming rights to just about anything it owns.”

The transit agency expects to award corporate sponsorships by next spring, officials said. Rodriguez said the CTA will go out for bids next week to hire a corporate adviser who will help package the sponsorship opportunities.

“We want to find new ways to generate revenue, and we want to do so in a way that will enhance the experience of our riders for improvements, services and amenities,” Rodriguez said.

But he and other CTA officials declined to offer any estimates on how much money the venture might generate.

“Providing 1.7 million rides every single day is a value to somebody someplace,” Rodriguez said. “The question is, What’s it worth?”

Savvy marketers will want some idea of how much bang they’re getting for their investment, experts say. Marketers also would have to look past the “what-ifs” of having their brand name associated with the unpleasant realities of public transportation, which include unkempt stations, rail line breakdowns and potential crashes.

A couple of things seem remarkable about this:

1. Sociologists are often concerned with the lack of true public spaces in cities (and suburbs). This is bound to have some effect on what were previously public spaces; now there were be even more reminders about corporations.

2. The CTA is going forward with this without being able to say publicly how much money they might be able to raise? This seems foolish. Will they still go forward if bids end up being lower than expected? Might it have been better to line up some more deals before going public with this?

3. How exactly will these new revenues be used within the CTA?

4. What are the next steps for expanding the CTA budget if these deals do not bring in as much money as expected or costs continue to rise and these new revenues are not enough?

5. The agency said it “will be sensitive to avoid naming rights that are in poor taste or at all questionable.” This could lead to some interesting battles over which companies can purchase naming rights and which cannot. What may be responsible to one neighborhood is not necessarily responsible to another.

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