For those of you who care and were not paying attention to the local press this week, the perpetually cash strapped Chicago Transit Authority or CTA has proposed selling the naming rights to its Rapid Transit Lines and Stations.
Some think that this might be confusing, especially to those from out of town.
Some years ago, CTA switched from end-station route names like Howard-Dan Ryan to Red and Lake-Englewood-Jackson Park to Green just to make it easier for those out of town travelers and new residents and well everyone who wants to travel on CTA.
But CTA needs the money. Reagan cut $80 million dollars in annual Federal operating assistance back in the late 80’s and early 90’s and that was never really replaced by anything, by ANYTHING. Reagan expected state and local governments to take over the responsibility for transit operations that he saw as local instead of Federal, but well, here in Chicago that just didn’t happen. For some reason the Republican Govenors who ran things for the last 20 years did not think that CTA was much of a priority even though a whole bunch of suburbanites used it every day. In fact, 90% of households in the region have someone who uses CTA at least once in the course of a year. 90% that’s staggering.
Anyway, because of this, and the lack of public outcry about the unfairness of CTA’s funding plight, and the willingness of the public not to hold thier state and local legislators accountable for the lack of funding that CTA gets which is the main reason for long waits at bus stops, bus bunching, overcrowded buses, overcrowded trains, and most of the other problems that CTA customers complain about (even rude operators are often rude primarily because you have caught them at the end of a long frustrating day in which their overcrowded bus has been perpetually late because CTA does not have enough money to schedule enough service on that route and so the buses must bunch as they fall further and further behind schedule and by the time you get to him or her they have been chewed our for something that is not thier personal fault for something like 250 - 300 times).
That’s assuming some bus GM did not hold a run in because their garage was over budget or couldn’t fill a run or two because too many drivers were out with the flu that day. Bus Operators have kids too you know. Kids go to the disease factories we call schools and bring home the flue and pass it on to their parents. In fact you would be surprised how many people forget that CTA bus and train staff are just people with families waiting for them to get home to help them with their homework and tuck them in bed for the night.
But that’s not the question.
The question is should CTA sell naming rights?
Well, lets assume they do it smart.
I know, that is an assumption, but they got the bus stop automated bus announcements right and that could have been a huge boondoggle, so lets assume that they can get this right too.
Let’s assume that some element of geography is left in the bus stop announcement.
Say the Yellow line becomes the Parkay Butter Line, it will be called the Parkay Butter Yellow Line. A yellow Line on the map, not hard to find. The Blue line might be the Democratic National Party Blue Line, etc.
The Tribune could buy stops like Addison and name them Cubs Field Station or Wrigley Junction to get in a double ad for the gum.
But why stop there?
Why not let people, corporations sponsor individual cars, buses, seats, even bus stops. With more than 10,000 bus stops at $100 a stop, more for preferred locations that’s a cool million right there. Maybe more to pay for the sign cost. Just thinking.
Perhaps the super rich like Donald Trump or Oprah can be convinced to build a Rail Station and name it after themselves or whatever they would like. They could even get lifetime passes for that kind of dough.
Fees for line sponsorship would be set up so that ownsership would depend on someone not outbidding you for it so that the maximum rate is always earned, although the current name owner would always have a chance to meet the new bid and have some advantage for CTA not having to rename everything.
Low budget? How about sponsoring a bus seat, train seat or a vending machine. You get a little plaque on the seat but no guarantee that you’ll get to sit there if you happen to find it. But I’ll bet if you show some ID you might be able to talk some people into letting you sit there!
So what do you think? Is this a good idea or the most confusing and worst idea you ever heard of. If you are from out of the Chicago area please say so. Also tell if you use CTA and how much.
I am in Chicago and use CTA when I am making trips that CTA serves well.
Peter, The Peter Files Blog of Comedy and Satire