Boeing Station? Metro reconsiders selling naming rights

Speeding Washington DC metro train(Getty Images/iStockphoto/AndrewSoundarajan)

WASHINGTON — You could be riding the “Boeing Metro,” “Amazon Line” from “Washington Capitals Station” to “Lockheed Martin’s Pentagon” each morning if a new Metro naming rights effort moves forward.

The transit agency is again considering selling naming rights to everything from the entire system and whole rail lines, to individual stations, Metrobus lines, parking lots and bus shelters.

In a request for proposals released Christmas Eve, Metro said it is looking for a consultant to figure out how much money corporate sponsorship for events or naming rights could raise, and where the best opportunities are to make money.

Metro is even considering selling the naming rights for its new headquarters, but would retain the right to “reject any potential sponsor, proposed marketing devises and mediums, or other program-related decisions deemed not in the best interest of WMATA or to contravene any applicable WMATA policies or guidelines.”

Metro advertising guidelines have been challenged in court by a number of groups, including the Catholic Church and ACLU, but have so far been upheld.

The Metro Board has raised and rejected or put off the idea several times in the past. But, with Metro looking harder for different sources of money and the chance to make changes more cheaply in 2020 when signage needs to be replaced anyway for the new Silver Line extension to Ashburn, there is a chance this time could be different.

Besides cash, Metro could consider trades of services or other benefits in some cases, the request for proposals said.

The first phase of the 10-year contract due to start in the first half of 2019 would focus on how much Metro could or should charge and which types or packages of sponsorship are feasible. It would also identify legal and other limitations on naming rights.

Then, if the Metro Board approves selling sponsorships, the contractor would be responsible for contacting private companies and negotiating deals with them. Metro hopes to hire consultants with experience in rounding up sponsors for public agencies.

Though the consultant would be paid upfront for the initial study, additional payments tied to the naming rights sales would either be based on a commission or would be any sponsorship amount above a set minimum payment Metro receives each year.

Proposals due Jan. 23 must factor in the cost of signage and other changes throughout the Metro system that would be associated with any sponsorship deal. Those costs would be significantly less for deals finalized over the next year or so, since Metro is already going to update system maps and signage to reflect new Silver Line stations.

Metro is in the process of hiring a contractor to replace signs by June 2020 at stations from Largo Town Center to Wiehle-Reston East to include the extension of the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport and Ashburn.

That contract includes new platform signs to eliminate older ones on pylons listing the next stations in either direction, plus new digital signs on a number of station platforms.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said earlier this month he expects the new stations to open sometime after July 1, 2020. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is building the line that will be turned over to Metro, expects service to begin by the end of 2020.

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