Subway stations for sale soon?
By Matthew Sweeney, amNewYork Staff Writer | email@example.com
August 7, 2008
Imagine Mickey Mouse greeting passengers as they step onto the platform at a "Disney Times Square" station or "CitiStation" beneath Citigroup Center at 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue."
In the midst of a financial crisis, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is looking at corporate sponsorship of subway stations to help fill its massive budget gap.
"We're looking to see what more we can do to raise revenue through station advertising," MTA CEO Elliot Sander told amNewYork.
Sponsorship, little more than a sketch on paper at this point, could become the most visible component of the agency's aggressive push to increase advertising revenue, which currently brings in a little more than $100 million a year.
Marketing firms "have contacted us to say that they have ideas and we're in the process of reviewing those," Sander said.
MTA officials would not provide further details on station sponsorships.
"There are a dozen people that would jump on this," said MTA board member Norman Seabrook, who called for the agency to rent subway stations to Disney several months ago. "There are thousands of people losing their jobs everyday and we cannot sit by and continue to raise their fares."
"Imagine Disney coming in and painting the entire station and painting a yellow brick road and if you go through this exit you go see Tarzan or if you go through this exit you go see the Lion King," Seabrook said. "It may sound funny to some people but if I want to get $20,000 or $30,000 a month to keep this station properly maintained, then I think it's appropriate."
This wouldn't be the first time the MTA has looked at selling sponsorships. In 2005, the agency hired consultants to look at potentials for corporate sponsorship of the subways.
While it may be OK for stadium's to sell naming rights, some are not keen on extending the idea to subway stations.
"There is a limit," said MTA board member Andrew Albert. "You don't want to rename stations I believe."
Albert suggested that the MTA could create transit improvement districts, similar to Business Improvement Districts, in which businesses contribute to pay for extra street cleaning or security.
Riders said they might get tired if they felt constantly barraged by ads, but most held out hope it could keep fares down.
"Corporate sponsors would be better than fare hikes," said Queens resident Beatrice Burth, 47.
As far as taste goes, some riders have a high threshold for what's acceptable.
"It can never be too overboard as long as they don't get too crazy or wild with sponsors like Playboy Channel or Hustler," said Tremayne Taylor, 33, of the Bronx.
Kathleen Bulson contributed to this story.