Home U.S. Transit SystemsCTA In Chicago, private money to renovate a station

In Chicago, private money to renovate a station

by Benjamin Kabak

A few months ago, the MTA unveiled the details of its first subway station naming rights contract. For $200,000 a year over 20 years, Barclays will attach its name to the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. stop. Once — or if — the new Nets arena opens at that location, the station will become Barclays Center/Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. It is geographically accurate, if a bit unwieldy, and we all know that the MTA needs the cash.

Additionally, we’ve often discussed expanding the MTA’s economic horizons by instituting an Adopt-a-Station program. Similar to the Adopt-a-Highway program in place across the nation, local businesses would pay to get their names on the station. These businesses could then be responsible for ensuring the cleanliness of subway stations or the money could go toward renovation and rehabilitation projects at that station. It is an unorthodox call, to be sure, but not out of the realm of the ordinary.

In fact, that is just what the Chicago Transit Authority may do. According to a CTA spokesperson, Apple and the Windy City’s transit authority are in talks to have the computer giant sponsor a station rehab. Lewis Lazare of the Chicago Sun-Times reports:

A CTA spokeswoman confirmed that the transit authority is in talks with the computer and iPhone behemoth about a deal that could net the cash-strapped CTA as much as $4 million in funding from Apple to pay for an upgrade of the run-down subway station at North and Clybourn, which is adjacent to an Apple retail store now under construction and expected to open next year.

In exchange for its millions, Apple would receive first dibs on any and all advertising that eventually goes up at the rehabbed subway stop, which would allow Apple to create what is known as a “station domination” advertising effect at the North and Clybourn station.

According to Lazare’s report, the funding deal would not include naming rights. Chicago is not yet ready to turn over the names of their El stops to private corporations.

For Chicago, a deal of this nature makes perfect sense. The CTA is in worse financial straits than the MTA and has recently proposed massive service cuts and a 30 percent fare hike. They desperately need any money they can get.

So again, though, I propose this idea for New York. At some point, the MTA should seriously considering looking at local business investment in subway stations. The agency’s new modular approach to station rehabilitation and component replacement is a bid step in the right direction and helps alleviate the nearly unattainable State of Good Repair for the system’s stations. With a little bit of creativity, the money though is out there, and we need not look further than Chicago and to Apple for proof.

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rhywun October 26, 2009 - 6:38 pm

I have no problem with “blanket” advertising by one sponsor and I have in fact seen it on occasion in New York (Union Square, IIRC). The ad space is going to used by someone–who cares if it’s a single company? However, I remain vehemently opposed to “naming rights” because that has a tangible negative effect on the system’s usability. NYC’s station names are confusing enough already without having to wade through brand names to get to the actual name of a station.

herenthere October 26, 2009 - 7:22 pm

“Trump’s Place” lol

Alon Levy October 26, 2009 - 8:18 pm

For $200,000 per year, the MTA is willing to sacrifice usability for a subway system with operating revenues of almost $3 billion a year?

Remind me again why the state isn’t firing all managers above the level of station manager?

Benjamin Kabak October 26, 2009 - 8:21 pm

How exactly are they sacrificing usability? All they’re going to do is add the name of the Barclays Center — a geographical destination and location — to the stop above which the center will sit if and when it opens. They’re not changing the name of Atlantic/Pacific to anything it isn’t, and they aren’t dropping Atlantic/Pacific from the station name. In this case, they’re actually earning money to make the system more user-friendly, if you look at it that way.

rhywun October 26, 2009 - 9:36 pm

Except *nobody* is going to call it “Barclays Center/Atlantic Ave./Pacific St.”. They’ll call it “Atlantic/Pacific” they way it has always been known. It’s “Avenue of the Americas” all over again. One name on the map, another name known by the public. Natives will get by; outsiders will be screwed as always. Plus, I think $200,000 a year is ridiculously low for that level of advertisement.

Benjamin Kabak October 26, 2009 - 9:43 pm

Nobody except train conductors and the MTA’s subway maps. I think the “outsiders” were be just fine.

rhywun October 27, 2009 - 10:14 pm

Time will tell but I bet lots of conductors won’t use the “proper” name. Most likely they’ll be “reminded” about the sponsorship and drop the “Atlantic” and “Pacific” parts.

Alon Levy October 27, 2009 - 5:15 am

The more names you add to a station, the less likely I am to remember each name. With 47-50-Rockefeller, it’s excusable on the grounds that Rockefeller Center is a major destination and that it comes last. With Barclay-Atlantic-Pacific, it’s not.

dave October 26, 2009 - 8:59 pm

didn’t the MTA have something similar planned for Citi Field, but then when Citi didn’t pony up, they just renamed the station Mets?

rhywun October 26, 2009 - 9:40 pm

Yes, and in this case the Mets (a PRIVATE institution*) don’t have to pay a dime for the free advertisement.

*Who nevertheless managed to get the taxpayers to pay for a large chunk of their new stadium.

Benjamin Kabak October 26, 2009 - 9:43 pm

The only reason the vast majority of riders get off at Willets Point is to go to Mets games (or for two weeks, the US Open). The MTA would be doing a disservice to straphangers if they didn’t at least somehow reference the Mets.

Alex Engel October 26, 2009 - 10:04 pm

Are you forgetting about Flushing Meadows park and the Queens Museum?

Alon Levy October 27, 2009 - 5:17 am

Are those destinations more popular than Shea Stadium and the Mets? No. Are they even on the same order of magnitude of popularity? No.

rhywun October 27, 2009 - 10:21 pm

Erm, no. The MTA is not supposed to be in the business of providing free advertising for private enterprise. At best, such businesses deserve no more than a secondary mention such as is done with e.g. NYU or Columbia. If the Mets owner cares to donate some of his taxpayer-assisted billions to renovating the station, I might be convinced to soften my stance.

Benjamin Kabak October 27, 2009 - 10:33 pm

The MTA is in the business of getting people around New York City with relative ease, and sometimes that includes mentioning attractions or destinations nearest to the subway stop. That stop in Willets Point is there largely to service Citi Field. Hence, the Mets will be mentioned. Otherwise, the MTA stops fulfilling its mandate and starts being more obstructionist than necessary. Willets Point-Mets is far more accurate in terms of rider convenience than the Christopher St.-NYU designation conductors on the 1 train use these days.

Alon Levy October 29, 2009 - 1:28 am

Are you sure they put NYU’s name on Christopher Street on the 1 rater than 8th Street on the R/W?

Benjamin Kabak October 29, 2009 - 1:30 am

Both. It’s on both right now.

Oddly enough though, it’s not mentioned at W 4th St., the station I use every day that’s one block away from the NYU law school.

The Daily Dig: Viaduct Collapse Edition » INFRASTRUCTURIST October 27, 2009 - 2:27 pm

[…] And finally, Chicago is proposing an Adopt-A-Station program for its subway. Looks like Apple might become the first to sponsor a station in exchange for its advertising rights. (Second Avenue Sagas) […]

JP October 29, 2009 - 12:22 pm

Money quote: “These businesses could then be responsible for ensuring the cleanliness of subway stations or the money could go toward renovation and rehabilitation projects at that station.”

Key word is ‘could’. More like “will be named as responsible for, but ultimately won’t do anything about…”

Apple’s money renovates a Chicago subway station :: Second Ave. Sagas October 29, 2010 - 1:05 am

[…] That private partner, you see, had an economic interest in sprucing up the neighborhood. To much fanfare, Apple recently opened a new store in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood and hammered out a deal last year with the CTA that mirrored a sponsorship agreement. In exchange for the advertising space inside the station, a right of first refusal should the CTA sell the naming rights and use of a nearby bus depot, Apple paid for the station renovation. […]

Chef Cooke » Archive » Blanket Advertising December 10, 2010 - 9:11 pm

[…] some interesting mornings with their bright blues in the fairly muted subway. I’ve read that Apple may subsidize Chicago CTA’s remodel, which won’t be such a bad thing by my standards (I find the simplicity of Apple Ads bearable […]


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