Home Asides MBTA naming rights initiative yields zeroes of dollars

MBTA naming rights initiative yields zeroes of dollars

by Benjamin Kabak

For the better part of the last year, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has been toying with the idea of naming rights, and toward the end of 2013, they issued an RFP as part of the initiative. For the low, low price of $1 million a year, you could buy the rights to name a T stop. Well, the results are in, and the project is, you will be surprised to hear, a total flop.

As the Boston Business Journal reported yesterday, the MBTA will make no money from the program this year. The responses to the RFP were due yesterday, and only one company — JetBlue — submitted a bid. Furthermore, their bid came in well below the minimum requirements. The MBTA failed to disclose the total JetBlue bid for rights to the blue line, but the agency had set the minimum bid at $1.2 million.

The MBTA isn’t closing the door to future naming initiatives, but agency officials seem unaware of the practical realities of the situation. One spokesman told MassLive.com that it was “unclear” why more companies did not submit proposals. The Loch Ness Monster of transit agencies lives on for another day.

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Elvis Delgado February 28, 2014 - 3:18 pm

“One spokesman told MassLive.com that it was unclear why more companies did not submit proposals.”

It’s quite clear, actually. The MBTA is looking to sell something that nobody has the slightest desire to have – namely an association with a failing, incompetently run, joke of an organization. Charles Manson would have a similar level of success if he tried to sell advertising on his prison togs.

nbluth March 2, 2014 - 11:16 am

Everything you said applies to the MTA. Only difference seems to be the MBTA is in Boston and MTA is lucky enough to be in the biggest city in the country.

Ryan March 3, 2014 - 10:04 am

A 2% fare hike would more than make up for the loss of revenue from stopping the ad offensive and cleaning all the crap out of MTA stations.

The MBTA’s numbers are even worse, with projected FY2014 ad revenues of $14.3 million as part of a $1.867 billion total revenue – since it’s Monday morning and nobody else here probably wants to do math, that makes MBTA ad revenue a whopping 0.77% of total MBTA revenue, nearly a quarter-percent WORSE than the MTA.

So while the MTA “only” needs to multiply its ad revenue by a factor of 10, our friends to north need to find a way to get something around 15 times the amount of revenue out of the same source – or, with margins like these, better words are perhaps “blood out of these stones.”

So much for that whole “balm for hurt minds” thing. It was nice rhetoric, just too bad that it’s worthless rhetoric.

Larry Littlefield March 2, 2014 - 9:11 pm

With the walls of the past debt and pension decisions, this is the sort of stuff that comes up when people want to believe that everything can be made better if people just get “creative.”

Other creative ideas waiting to rear their heads? How about legalized gambling in subway stations! Swipe your Metrocard, and either you get free trips or have the value wiped out. The house keeps the vig.

Legalized marijuanna on mass transit? You don’t have to worry about smoking and driving, and don’t complain about secondhand smoke. We’re desperate!

Perhaps New York can get ahead of the social trend and have legalized but highly taxed prostitution in the subways and buses, on special overnight trips.

Ryan March 3, 2014 - 9:42 am

Here’s a creative idea: allow mass transit agencies to buy and sell or lease real estate, especially in the vicinity of core/key stations.

Oh, wait, that’s not creative, that’s what every “profitable” transit agency in the world already does.

Real estate has always been the only way forward if the goal is truly a system taking in more money than it puts out. Advertising has always been, at best, a carnival sideshow – and at worst, an insult.

Whether or not “profitability” is or should be the goal of a public service is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that advertising would need to be pulling in ten times the revenue it is right now for it to be “worthwhile” and there’s no path forward which gets us or anyone else there.

Larry Littlefield March 3, 2014 - 11:28 am

All we have to do is turn over the vast tracts of undeveloped land (without existing residents or jobs) in the vicinity of transit stations to the MTA, and let them sell it.

Too late. That might have worked from 1900 to 1960, but not now.

How about upzoning neighborhoods with three story rowhouses for 40 story buildings, as long as developers give money to the MTA to pay for wage and pension increases? Bill DeBlasio seems to have that idea already. But he wants the money to go to affordable housing, and lots of other interests already have their hands up.

Ryan March 3, 2014 - 1:56 pm

Then we’re just going to have to accept that “profitable” is a worthless and impossible goal and conduct our dealings accordingly, with the MTA as a public service whose worth is measured in the value it creates for real estate private interests rather than as a function of its own bottom line.

I’m fine with that.

I’m also fine with hardball line-in-the-sand negotiation, as in, “no upzoning without sale/transfer of the land to the MTA,” or, “land value tax as a product of land worth and proximity to transit with all proceeds to the MTA,” or, “we promise all you people living in the three-story rowhouse will have rent control in the 40-story tower we’re condemning your place to build; but just in case our word isn’t good enough you’re all being evicted either way.”

All of this is beside the point, anyway. The point is that advertising revenues don’t and won’t and can’t work.


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