During a pre-proposal meeting on Feb. 3, officials at the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority will speak to interested clients about the new MBTA Corporate Sponsorship Program in hopes of selling opportunities to rename MBTA stations.
The program, which is part of a transportation bill signed into effect by Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick last spring, will allow corporations and businesses to place their names on MBTA stations for $2 million.
“It’s a standard meeting that is held as part of every competitive bidding process conducted by the [MBTA],” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. “MBTA staff will be on hand to answer any questions from potential bidders.”
The deadline for companies to submit bids is Feb. 27. Pesaturo would not say whether any companies had submitted Requests for Proposals or Requests of Interest.
Boston University spokesman Colin Riley said BU is aware of the program but has chosen to not submit a proposal because there are already three Green Line stops with BU’s name: Boston University East, Boston University Central and Boston University West.
Tony Fusco, director of Fusco and Four, a marketing and public relations agency that has been operating in Boston for 35 years, said public transportation should not depend on selling sponsorships to raise money.
“It’s an insult to the city of Boston,” he said. “It’s the selling out of our public transportation system. It’s not going to close the budget gap for the MBTA. The budget gap is much larger than that. All it’s doing is some kind of window dressing, and it’s confusing to the public.”
Fusco said the Corporate Sponsorship Program will add to the abundance of advertising already affecting the public.
“We are bombarded with advertising, all day, from all sides,” he said. “There’s already advertising on the T. They already advertise in the cars and on the subway platforms. There’s already advertising that wraps the buses in elaborate advertising. There’s already plenty of advertising on our public transportation system. I just think this is over the top.”
Jeremy Mays, the CEO of a marketing firm named Transmyt, said the program could lead to an oversaturation of corporation advertising, but the increased revenue brought in could be beneficial for MBTA riders.
“Anything that they can do to make up lost revenue and close their budget shortfalls is good for the MBTA, which also hopefully is ultimately good for the riders of the MBTA and the consumers provided that they pass those earnings along in the form of better service, reduced time between fare hikes and overall expansion of services to the MBTA,” Mays said.
Several residents said the MBTA is taking steps in the right direction in effort to raise revenue, but they should re-think some aspects of the Corporate Sponsorship Program.
Katie Bever, 23, of Brighton, said while she understands the MBTA’s need to raise money, the MBTA should use other advertising techniques, rather than changing the names of stations.
“More advertising for those companies around the stations wouldn’t be a problem, though,” she said. “The MBTA needs to make money somehow, so if [adding more advertisements] is the way they need to do it, I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
Douglas Upton, 46, of the South End, said changing the names of stations will be confusing for the public and is not a worthwhile way for the MBTA to raise revenue.
“There are other ways to fund a transit system than selling station names,” he said. “I remember they were trying to call Downtown Crossing “Citizens Bank”. But who’s going to refer to a Citizens Bank Station? That doesn’t even make sense. There’s Citizens Banks everywhere. I don’t have a problem with the ads, per se, because I understand that they need money, but that idea [to rename stations] is definitely a little stupid.”
Kym Murray, 31, of Back Bay, works in fundraising and said the program is a smart way for the MBTA to begin raising money.
“As a resident, who pays a lot of money and taxes, I would go for it because clearly they’re struggling and we need a lot of improvements,” she said. “People will get used to the name changes. This seems like a good way to start [making more money]. It’s money that the state needs, so why not go for it?”