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Metro Approves Program To Sell Naming Rights For Its Stations, Lines

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Vermont/Santa Monica Metro station. (Photo by Michael Locke via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Perhaps one day you’ll be riding on the Xbox Line. Or maybe you’ll find yourself making a transfer at the Campbell’s Chunky Soups Stop.

These are exaggerations, perhaps. But there’s now the possibility of that happening, as the Metro governing board approved last week a new advertising policy that would allow the sale of naming rights for its rails and stations, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. The “Corporate Sponsorship/Naming Rights Program” will pave way for Metro to hire a marketing company as early as next year to field offers from companies who want their brand on a piece of Metro property.

Per a Metro document from October, the naming rights will fall into short-term and long-term agreements. Long-term agreements will "last a minimum of five years for assets such as transit services, rail lines, stations, buildings, etc." And short-term sponsorships will go up to "a maximum of 12 months or less for assets such as programs, events, seasonal events, or temporary station renamings." So while the big fish may be the lines and stations, companies will have a slew of other opportunities to push their brand through Metro's wide number of properties. Within the guidelines of the program, any agreements worth over $500,000 will have to be voted on by the board. Anything under may simply be approved by the Metro CEO.

The move comes on the heels of Measure M being voted in. The approval paved the way for Metro to start on a large variety of transit projects around the county, ranging from freeway improvements to subway line extensions. While the measure is expected to generate about $120 billion over 40 years to cover the works, the project's ambitions are indeed large. As such, Metro put forth its "risk allocation matrix" earlier this year to "foster a culture of financial discipline throughout Metro," per a Metro document.

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The new naming rights policy, then, falls in line with the agency's push for more fiscal security. Metro notes that, in Denver, a partnership to rename a line after the University of Colorado has been enacted and is expected to generate $5 million for the Denver Regional Transportation District.

There are limits to the policy, however. According to Glen Becerra, Metro deputy executive officer for communications and marketing, historical landmarks such as Union Station will likely be off-limits, as the proposal to re-name it would have to go through the board (which includes, among other people, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisor Janice Hahn). Metro also says that they would "engage the community in the neighborhoods near a Metro property proposed for a long-term sponsorship prior to being presented to the Board."

Also of note: Metro had approved in 2014 a naming policy stipulating that the name of a station or transit system would have to reference, to some degree, the areas that it would be serving.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, one of the board members who'd voted against the policy, said that the program may set up a situation where a company may sue Metro for rejecting a name. "If the board turns down somebody, you might violate the First Amendment," she said.

Outside of the prospective corporate sponsorships, Metro also has a history of looking to other sources to name their properties. It recently turned to the public to name its upcoming downtown stations. Earlier this year, a Metro station was temporarily re-named in Kobe Bryant's honor, and in October an 8th grader got to name a tunnel boring machine (it's called "Angeli").

LAist reached out to Metro and the offices of L.A. city councilmember and Metro board member Mike Bonin (who'd also voted against the policy), but no one was immediately available for comment.

[Update 5:29 p.m.]

Bonin, in a message written to LAist, said that, "Public advertising has become a horrible visual blight and we need less of it, not more of it. We shouldn't be naming Metro stations after corporate sponsors. Are we going to have the Exxon Expo line? The Starbucks/Wilshire stop on the Red Line?"