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Editorial: NFTA plan to sell station naming rights is a creative way to raise needed revenue

Plastering a corporate name on a public edifice isn’t an original idea, but it’s one that could result in millions more in funding to take care of an aging Metro Rail system.

As reported in The News, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority officials have decided to sell naming rights for the stations along the 6.4-mile rail line.

So far, no company is ready to climb aboard and attach its name to any of Metro Rail’s surface or underground stations. But NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel is optimistic that the idea will appeal to companies and that the effort will generate much-needed new revenue to maintain stations that are more than 30 years old.

Minkel makes a good point about the need to improve the customer experience, in part by performing necessary maintenance. It is especially important as ridership is sure to increase with the thousands of new employees and visitors expected every day at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Metro Rail is expected to play a critical role in getting people to the campus. Most of the stations they will use need at least sprucing up, if not such major items as new escalators and roofs. A new revenue stream based on the increased ridership will expedite that work.

The new station at Fountain Plaza is an example of the sort of improvements the new money could fund. Lafayette Square Station, undergoing an estimated $60,000 of improvements to “freshen” the stop, is another example.

For those opposed to overcommercialization of a public agency, that train left the station long ago. Metro buses and trains and bus shelters are covered with advertising.

The NFTA will be following the lead of other transit agencies that have sold naming rights to rail stations. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority got $4 million for its subway station at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will collect $17 million over 25 years from Cleveland hospitals and Cleveland State University.

With state aid not keeping up with the need and fares already high, NFTA officials must find creative ways to raise revenue. Selling naming rights is one of them.

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