Revenue Generators for Metro

Whenever  I read that Metro is facing a budget shortfall and that the proposed solutions are a fare increase or a reduction in services, it frustrates me. There are at least two things it seems WMATA could look to as bigger revenue sources.

The first is real estate. WMATA owns a lot of something great—land that is on top of and close to Metro stations. Plenty of this land sits vacant or is taken up by parking lots and garages. Sink that parking and you suddenly have room for retail, offices and residential buildings right at a Metro stop. It seems like a smart growth no-brainer.

I’d even love to see the next big outdoor concert venue (no one likes driving to Nissan Pavilion, even when it’s called Jiffy Lube Live) or stadium (paging DC United…paging DC United) built at someplace like Shady Grove.

“WMATA owns the land and often partners with nearby land owners for TOD projects or leases the land to developers for projects,” said Sarah Krouse of the Washington Business Journal in a Twitter response to me back in May when I asked her who owns the land Metro stations sit on. “The newish head of joint devel. is v.interested in incr. $ from Metro-owned land & in selling off unused slivers along the lines,” she told me in another tweet.

Good! I hope we see more of it. And leasing seems to make the most sense to me, as it will generate revenue over a longer period of time than if the land is just sold (I have zero real estate experience, but this is my guess).

Advertising would appear to be a second big area of opportunity. There are ads inside all trains, on the outside of a small number of them and there have been some ads inside Metro tunnels. And there are ads inside Metro stations, mostly in the form of light boards on the platform.

But, when you consider all the prime space within the Metro system that could hold advertising and the large number of people who ride Metro everyday, it feels like WMATA has only scratched the surface.

There could be more trains wrapped in ads, more ads in the tunnels, audio ads, video ads, and ads could be placed inside of and hung from the outside of Metro parking garages. We’re in a tough economy but advertising is still being purchased—maybe not at the rate it was several years ago, but it’s still being done. And Metro has hundreds of thousands of people riding it every day.

I’ve often wondered why we don’t have more Metro stations basically wrapped in advertising. Check out this post on the DC Sports Bog, “CSN takes over Gallery Place Metro Station“, for a great example of how this can work. Comcast SportsNet advertising is all over that station in the form of “140 signs, banners and graphics.” With Verizon Center right upstairs, and Caps and Wizards season underway, this makes a lot of sense.

This type of advertising could be done in many more stations than it’s currently being done in right now. And why stop at just letting the ads dominate the station. This next part might sound like a joke but it’s not. Why not sell the naming rights for Metro stations. Other than being absurdly long, how is the Comcast SportsNet Gallery Place-Chinatown Station much different than having a Fed Ex Field, Verizon Center or the Comcast Center in College Park.

Some people might be offended by the suggestion to have ads all over our Metro system or the names of corporations slapped on the stations. But I’d happily get on and off trains at the Capital One Dupont Circle Station or ride on the Coca-Cola Red Line if it meant I didn’t spend any more than I already do to park at and ride on Metro ($15.15 a day currently and I imagine that’s only going up if we don’t get more innovative).


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