Over the past few months, as transit agencies have tried to eke dollars out of everything under the sun, I’ve become fascinated by the drive to secure naming rights deals. Some transit executives speak of these as the Holy Grail of alternate revenue streams while others, including the MTA’s own Jay Walder, are wary of overstating their impact. Today’s story comes out of Austin where the Capital Metro board is looking to sell system naming rights.
For the last few years, Cap Metro has seen its revenue streams dry up. It’s in the transit-unfriendly state of Texas and has had to slash service to keep itself afloat. Now its CEO and President thinks she knows the answer. “The reason to do it is revenue for the system,” Lisa Watson said. “You can have a multiyear revenue stream. It can help you plug holes in budget gaps. That’s what a lot of systems across the country are doing instead of cutting service. They’re doing naming rights to cover their operating funds. If we were to do this with our commuter rail line, we could possibly use revenue to cover the subsidy for the system.”
Of course, talk is cheap, and naming rights deals aren’t. As I wrote just two weeks ago, while transit agencies around the nation have tried to find corporate partners and sponsorships, the money just isn’t there. Transit agencies talk about selling the names of their properties, but deals are few and far between. When I have a bit more time, I hope to explore the economics of this fascinating area a bit more, but for now, we can keep an eye on Austin as we are Boston to see which, if any, transit agency can sell these rights for any appreciable amount of money.