April 8th, 2014
Thankfully, the MBTA fails to sell naming rights to its stations
The MBTA’s energetic efforts to raise money from private businesses — by leasing kiosks in subway stations, for example, or selling ad space on trolleys and bus shelters — have generally been a reasonable response to the transit system’s undeniable financial stresses. But the Legislature blundered last year when, as part of its jumbo transportation law, it directed the T to try to sell “naming or sponsorship rights for all subway, bus, or commuter rail stations or other assets operated and owned by the authority.” While naming rights are a time-honored means of raising revenue, not everything should be for rent. Shared civic spaces delineate the public realm, and turning their names into fundraising opportunities undermines the city’s very identity.
So it is encouraging that the MBTA’s attempt to auction off the names of its landmark stations and transit lines ended up going nowhere. As the T acknowledged recently, only a single bid was received — JetBlue expressed an interest in renaming the Blue Line, but it wasn’t prepared to ante up the $1.2 million required for the privilege. There were no bids at all for naming rights at the other MBTA lines, nor for the nine stations offered.