CTA President Richard Rodriguez announced Wednesday that the transit agency will begin soliciting bids to sell the naming rights to its rail lines and stations. Even bus routes could carry corporate names.
Following the bid process, corporate sponsorships would be announced by spring, said Rodriguez, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"If there's an equivalent to free money in the transportation business, this is it," said Greg Hinz with Crain's Chicago Business.
Faced with an increasingly tight budget, the CTA is, of course, looking at ways to increase the cash flow. A budget proposed in September is $1.337 billion, nearly $67 billion more than in 2009. "Management efficiencies" helped avoid service cuts and fare increases, Rodriguez said at the time.
"They have to get money from somewhere. Some company wants to walk in and say, 'I'll give you $1 million or $2 million to put my name on it,' it's hard to say no," said Hinz. "When you're talking about well over 100 stations, eight or nine El lines, that could -- if it catches on -- represent some serious dough."
The CTA currently doesn't sell naming rights to its stations, but the agency's roughly $4 million deal last year with Apple led to a gleaming new station house at North and Clybourn. The technology company's name isn't on the station -- yet -- but its ads are all over, teasing commuters to visit the retail store next door.