Columnist: Metro should take whatever $ it can get!

I posted a link to a column by Joel Epstein in the Huffington Post the other day. In his column, Joel wrote that Metro should be pushing hard to find corporations or other entities to pick up the cost of subway stations and other transit infrastructure — kind of like stadium naming right deals. He also published a follow-up post on Wednesday about the response from County Supervisor and Metro Board member Zev Yaroslavsky and looking further into deals that could be made.

In my post, I pointed out that the ballpark cost for a subway station is $100 million, and likely more. On the other hand, stadium naming deals typically cost companies about $1 million to $3 million a year.

Joel emailed me Tuesday with what I thought was a very smart response to that. In short, he suggests that Metro should take what it can get. His email:

Thanks for rerunning my Huffington Post piece and for noting the cost of buying the naming rights to a stadium. If a donor can’t afford a station, how about an elevator?  A subway car? All of these modest contributions help get us there and that’s everyone’s goal. I also feel we shouldn’t make light of the importance to the Feds of that local investment and involvement in the process. Measure R sends a great message that the public cares and wants mass transit. A few (or more) philanthropic and business “investments” in the system even where the quid pro quo is very clear would help us close the deal and bring us closer to the goal of wider mass transit options in a gridlocked region. With the Expo line behind schedule and over budget we we will need all the help we can get.

See this story in the New York Times about an arrangement involving Barclay’s and NY’s MTA in Brooklyn — in which Barclays bought the naming rights to subway station for $4 million over 20 years. Four million dollars! I’ll take it! That sort of sums up my concern about our mindset in approaching this admittedly ambitious undertaking. If there’s $1 million or more on the table we shouldn’t be leaving it there just because the cost of a station is $100 million or more.  Additionally, while Mariachi Plaza and Soto may have cost that much to build there are six other new above ground stations that Metro might have offered to the business and philanthropic community for the bargain rate of…a million here and a million there and soon you’re talking real money.

Best and thanks,
Joel

One goal of The Source is to be a sounding board for ideas. And I think it’s fair to say that anyone who wants to see more mass transit and transportation infrastructure knows that money is a real problem and that the more ideas for finding some, the better. If you have an idea, please write us at thesource@metro.net.

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