Home New Jersey Transit NJ Transit seeking station naming deals

NJ Transit seeking station naming deals

by Benjamin Kabak

The never-ending push to generate excitement and, more importantly, revenue from transit naming rights deals has spread across the Hudson. New Jersey Transit is engaged in an effort to sell the naming rights to stations and advertising space on trains, and the bidding procedure has sparked a controversy.

Mike Frassinelli of The Star-Ledger reports:

In the not-too-distant future, a commuter going from Newark to Hamilton might board a Minute Maid express train and take it to Sprite Platform at Coca-Cola Transit Center. Such an itinerary could result from NJ Transit’s intention to sell advertising rights to its stations, terminal facilities and locomotives.

This planned sale of naming and product-advertising rights has set off a frenzy among companies trying to pay NJ Transit tens of millions of dollars to broker the potentially lucrative sales. It also has led to a formal protest from one bidder, who contends the transit agency would leave almost $12 million on the table by renewing with the advertising company that now holds the contract.

Craig Heard, president and CEO of Gateway Outdoor Advertising in Hackettstown, said NJ Transit did not allow his company into the final round of bidding even though Gateway’s $65 million offer of guaranteed revenue was nearly 20 percent more than the $53.3 million guaranteed by the current contractor, the Titan Outdoor advertising agency.

Over the past few years, I’ve followed transit naming rights deals closely, and I’ve come to the conclusion that they are mostly smoke and mirrors. Transit authorities speak glowingly of them as potential revenue sources while advertisers sound excited for a few months. When the bidding process begins though, dollars at all but the most trafficked of stations fall far short of expectations.

In New Jersey, I can see a few things happening: First, the deal to sell ad space on the outside of trains will be far more popular and lucrative than the station naming rights deals. Perhaps NJ Transit can realize some dollars for Newark Penn Station or Trenton, but beyond that, it won’t sell many station names. Second, New Jersey Transit is sacrificing some dollars by putting its eggs in the Titan basket. This company, after all, was recently dumped by the MTA for failure to make payments.

Anyway, with money short, New Jersey Transit seems to be joining a long list of transit authorities who think they can strike gold when all they’ve found is nothing.

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Peter June 8, 2011 - 12:38 pm

Given the high potential for negative connotations accruing to their brands, I don’t find it all surprising that corporations haven’t flocked to station naming-rights deals. Just think about it: “Trains will be skipping Sbarro Station because of a smoke condition.” “Shuttle buses will replace trains between Walgreens Station and Macy’s Station due to a derailment.” At moments when riders are frustrated with the transit system – and those moments are fairly regular on NJ Transit – companies don’t want mental connections with their brands.

That’s all for the best. I think selling naming rights to public infrastructure is a travesty.

David June 8, 2011 - 12:41 pm

This once proud nation was somehow able to afford grand public projects we still appreciate and need today.
What’s next, the Wal-mart Turnpike, Daffy’s Central Park, the Taco Bell Ferry?
The only way I would support business sponsorship of transit stations is if they are required to keep them clean (adopt a station) and then their commitment will be obvious every day.

Christopher June 8, 2011 - 1:42 pm

Well we built those “grand public projects” with underpaid immigrant workers, crammed into tenement housing and working 7 days a week. They were likely underage as well. All paid for by through public graft of untaxed oligarchs.

Hey that sounds a lot like today!

You’re right. How did we do it better then?

David June 8, 2011 - 7:10 pm

But I’m not talking about 100 years ago with millions of desperate immigrants who also left beautiful monuments to the age.
I’m talking about the 1950s when union membership nationwide was over 33% and the average man could support a family, buy a small house, and own a car. The upper-most wealthy also paid several times the percentage they do now and this was America’s modern golden age. Somehow, spreading the wealth for the Depression and World War II survivors seemed better and worked too.
American jobs have been sent overseas and we’re now realizing the consequence.

Scott E June 8, 2011 - 1:16 pm

Naming rights aren’t the lucrative cash cow they were once thought to be. Look at the New Meadowlands Stadium among other new sports venues. But the writing of the article appears a bit disjointed; I can’t tell if renaming stations is NJ Transit’s intention or just the reporter’s speculation.

I see nothing wrong with advertising on the outside of trains (as they do buses) or in other locations (backs of tickets, etc), but the selling of station names is equivalent to the post office changing the names associated with zip codes. The place names are too closely woven, and in some cases (Princeton Junction, Convent Station) the train station name preceded the name of the surrounding development.

I find it interesting that the examples given by the reporter (“Minute Maid express train and take it to Sprite Platform at Coca-Cola Transit Center“) are all Coca-Cola brands. I wonder if there’s some paid product placement going on in this article?

Al D June 8, 2011 - 2:00 pm

Old name Meadowlands, new name: wheretodumpabody.com (Go Daddy)
Old name Newark, new name: Run for your Lives (New Balance)
Old name Trenton, new name: none (closed and demolished by Gov. Christie) I mean, who needs rail anyway when NJTPke will be 12 glorious lanes south to exit 6!

Adirondacker12800 June 8, 2011 - 4:33 pm

Newark’s Penn Station is landmarked. You might have some difficulty renaming it. Lots of other railroad stations are landmarked. Even if it wasn’t landmarked it never became PennCentral station.

…renaming things doesn’t always work. What Avenue is the W4 St subway station on? Broadway crosses the same Avenue at Herald Square… Is Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center or is it in Mitsubishi Center? Though nowadays it would be Speyer Center.

Alon Levy June 8, 2011 - 7:29 pm

The ability of American transit agencies to hate on and inconvenience their customers in pursuit of a few bucks used to astonish me. It no longer does.


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