Chicago To Sell Naming Rights To Bus Routes, Train Lines, Everything It Can

Next spring, the commuters of Chicago may no longer be taking the Red Line to Addison if they want to catch a Cubs game. If the Chicago Transit Authority has its way, they could be riding on McDonald’s Express and getting off at Costco Station.

The CTA announced yesterday that it intends on selling off the naming rights to just about everything it possibly can.

From the Chicago Tribune:

That includes rail lines and stations, bus routes, retail concessions, and special events. Even the venerable CTA logo will be on the auction block.

“We want to find new ways to generate revenue,” said the CTA prez. “And we want to do so in a way that will enhance the experience of our riders for improvements, services and amenities…

“Providing 1.7 million rides every single day is a value to somebody someplace… The question is, What’s it worth?”

Is this a problem if the CTA uses the money to improve service and not increase rates? Do you think that would actually happen?

CTA to sell naming rights to rail stations, bus routes [Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. aja175 says:

    Oh boy, can’t wait to ride the HSBC train

  2. obits3 says:

    I’ll be taking the Subway…

  3. hypochondriac says:

    The naming rights get sold to a friend of someone in the Government for well below market value. The person then resells the rights to companies for an obscene profit. Service still gets cut and fairs rise because not enough revenue was generated

  4. karsen says:

    i WISH there were In-N-Outs in Chicago…

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    A comment response on the source article which bears re-posting:

    “This is not innovation, this is lack of leadership and ability. These assets are the Citizen’s assets to be managed by appointed individuals, not sold off or plastered over.

    If Rodriguez (City of Government) wants to be really serious about fixing the CTA, sell the whole thing to a private company and have them manage it to service level agreements. Get out of the business of driving buses and running trains, because selling off naming rights to bits and pieces of the network is, at best, a half measure. They’ll be right back here in three to four years with no money again.”

    • RTWinter says:
      • ZippoGuaillo says:

        uhh, yeah it has worked. Hong Kong. Private company (although government owns majority stake), new lines keep being built, service is usually every three minutes, and fares from $.75 to $2. Now Chicago isn’t HK, and they do have a lot of advantages (including being able to build profitable malls on top of stations, which has been a money loser for the CTA whenever they’ve tried it), but at any rate, privitization has worked.

        they actually run some other cities lines too – some lines in shenzhen, beijing, london, melbourne, and stockholm. i’ve dreamed of them coming in and whipping the cta into shape, but that’ll never happen. we’ll just have to settle for a Potbellys line, fare hikes, and service cuts.

    • Gulliver says:

      Managing this asset is what they are attempting to do. If you have ever been on any mass transit you know there is already plenty of marketing going on. Buses are traveling billboards, as are subways and el cars. The only issue I would have with naming rights is for an out of town visitor saying the Costco stop, will make them think it is where a Costco is at. If they called it the Costco Red Line and stopping at McDonalds/Halstead Station, I can support this.
      Privatizing public transportation is the worst idea. It does not work. Selling public assets is a mismanagement of their fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers.
      For all those privatize people, we can privatize public transportation when we privatize ALL public roads. The free market would demand if I own 12 city blocks of road, I can charge you whatever I feel like to ALLOW you to drive over MY road. I can see it now. Billionaires gobbling up streets and forcing people to pay to drive on them. Then only the really wealthy could go to some neighborhoods. Free enterpirse does not work in many instances

  6. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    My friend and I used to joke that the MBTA (Boston’s transit system) should sell the rights to naming the buses to Coke and Pepsi. We theorized if Coke and Pepsi owned alternating bus times you could be damn sure they’d be on time. No way would Coke stand idly by while the Coke 5:15 arrives later than the the Pepsi 5:25.

  7. balthisar says:

    I guess it’ll be a Chrysler Line, Hyundai Line, Mitsubishi Line, Volkswagen Line, and (for variety) the Tata Line now.

  8. Geekybiker says:

    This is going to turn out just like the parking meter fiasco. Citizens will end up paying more, and any profit will go right into the politician’s pockets.

  9. quirkyrachel says:

    As a Chicagoan, I just want decent public transportation service. I don’t care if they name things, though I do think that it’ll be confusing to remember that, e.g. McDonald’s = Addision. I know where Addision is on the line (south of Sheridan, north of Belmont), and McDonald’s doesn’t really explain/denote the location of the station.

  10. axhandler1 says:

    Reminds me of BASEketball and the renaming of stadiums. Can’t wait to see the Preparation H subway stop, or the Vagisil bus route.

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      Well it will make giving directions to tourist a little more amusing. “You wanna take the Tampex down to the Extenz, switch over to the Subway bus and then get off at M&Ms.

    • zzyzzx says:

      Vagisil would be more appropriate for a subway station or line, not a bus route.

  11. theduckay says:

    One of our subway stops in Philly was recently renamed the “AT&T Station”…it feels sounds to say instead of just the street name or area where the stop is.

    • theduckay says:

      meh I meant “it sounds weird to say”. Oh how I long for an edit button…

    • nybiker says:

      Seriously, they renamed the station? Yikes!
      Did they keep part of the original name so that you’d all know where the Ma Bell station actually is?

    • jessjj347 says:

      Yeah, I don’t care if it’s renamed. I’m still not calling it AT&T station…If I give someone directions, I’ll just say to get off when a crowd of other people do…

    • Peter Nincompoop says:

      Of course, Philly could just put automated fare card machines that accept credit in every station and have turnstiles where one swipes said cards to enter rather than having to go to the hub stops to acquire rail passes.

      It would also be nice if an attendant manned every station during operating hours, rather than having to jump the turnstiles at Spring Garden Station in the PM because nobody is there to let you pass through the turnstile.

      As an outsider to the city, Philly’s subway confounds me. It’s not a bad system and easy to navigate, but the amount of $ they must lose each year due to tourists not being able to figure out its nuances and overall inconvenience must be staggering.

  12. LogicalOne says:

    Just a clarification on the title to this article: The city of Chicago isn’t selling the naming rights. The CTA is a separate government body. In fact, the CTA runs trains and buses in and out of several suburbs of Chicago as well.

    It seems like every government function in Illinois is a separate government body, most of which have their own taxing authority. There are separate library, sewer and water, park, forest preserve, school (elementary, high school, junior college), etc. districts. Not to mention township, village, town, city, county governments. Each has its own governing board and each seems to have their own tax assessments. My property tax bill must list at least 15 different government bodies each setting their own tax rates. It’s impossible to keep an eye on all of them.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Easier to keep an eye on the taxes though since it’s all itemized.

    • PLATTWORX says:

      A headline on a Consumerist story that is totally false, missing facts, has wrong information or doesn’t even relate to what is below it?? REALLY? No!

    • Geekybiker says:

      That’s not exactly true. CTA is part of the RTA that runs other services like pace, metra, etc. CTA is exclusively Chicago from everything I’ve ever seen.

    • Geekybiker says:

      That’s not exactly true. CTA is part of the RTA that runs other services like pace, metra, etc. CTA is exclusively Chicago from everything I’ve ever seen.

    • nybiker says:

      I thought CTA was a rock group from way back when.

  13. ldub says:

    This is such a gross idea. Let’s just privatize the entire government and be done with it.

  14. ConsumerPop says:

    I would love if the MTA sold add space on the trains (like the advertising Target did on the 6 train) but I would HATE it if they renamed lines and stops.

    Take the Google train three stops to the Disney Station, then transfer to the Verizon Fios line and take that 8 stops and get off at the McD’s station. Ugh.

    • suzieq says:

      That ship sailed long ago in Chicago…we have buses wrapped in advertisements from top to bottom.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I agree. It’s definitely better to advertise on the trains themselves if you’re going to charge for advertising. Changing the names would require spending millions of dollars to change the maps, signs, and directions on printed manuals. but one train can just get repainted and you don’t have to change the maps. I think this is what DC has been doing for years – once in a while I see a wrapped train. Most of them aren’t repainted or wrapped, but a few of them are.

  15. Disappointed says:

    Oooh! That means that, soon, we really will be able to ride the JG Wentworth Express bus!

  16. brianisthegreatest says:

    There sure won’t be a Grand Theft Auto IV Station.

  17. hotcocoa says:

    Tacky tacky tacky. I hope they never do this in NY.

  18. otherginger says:

    Pretty soon it will be like in Infinite Jest, with each year being sold to a corporate sponsor (e.g., “Year of the Whopper”).

  19. PLATTWORX says:

    Dear Research/Art Deparment:

    In and Our Burger does not operate anywhere in that part of the country, forget just Chicago.

    • MFfan310 says:

      And the nearest Wells Fargo branch from Chicago is in the South Bend/Mishawaka, IN area.

      • colorisnteverything says:

        Not true. I think there is a branch in Valpo and may even be one in Gary/Merriville. There is one in LaPorte, too (my hometown). So, not just in SB. I say this because I avoid SB at all costs unless I need to go – the mall sucks and the time difference is even worse!

  20. davein805 says:

    In Philadelphia, SEPTA sold the naming rights to Pattison Station (end point of the Broad Street Line where the sports stadiums are located) to AT&T. It’s now called AT&T Station. AT&T boasts on billboards that it is the only carrier that transmits underground which is true but it does so on the slower EDGE network not 3G. AT&T is trying to boast its presence by using the EDGE network but everyone is desperately trying to brag about “4G” or LTE. Hmm…AT&T marketing came up a bit short in Philly.

  21. TVGenius says:

    Now departing Starbucks Station. Next stop, Starbucks Station. Transfer to the Mocha line for Starbucks Station, Starbucks Station, and Starbucks Station.

  22. INsano says:

    Say goodbye to your sovereignty America. There is a Matt Tiabbi piece here: that has perspective and fact about the recent 75-year lease of the city’s parking meters to a fund mostly owned by middle-eastern oil barons.

    I’m still waiting for high-school health classes presented by McDonalds and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

  23. crb042 says:

    One of the purposes of naming things is to identify them.

    Naming stations in a way that helps people know where they are and where they’re headed is USEFUL. Especially to tourists.

    For comparison, I cite the number of times I hear about football at [Naming Rights] Field and can’t tell from that who’s the home team.

    • Rena says:

      I’d be even more worried about the idea of reselling. If a company can buy the rights I imagine they can sell them again too. There’s potential for a lot of confusion with frequent name changes as naming rights are bought and sold all over the place.

      • Willow16 says:

        Yep. What was originally named the Brendan Byrne Arena in NJ (named after a Democratic governor) was renamed the Continental Airlines Arena in 1996 and, since 2007, it is the Izod Arena. To me this is a joke. What happens when someone doesn’t want to buy the naming rights (the Devils and Nets no longer play there so they only hold concerts there).

      • nybiker says:

        And let’s not forget places like Enron Field or PSiNet Stadium. Those joints are really hopping these days.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I know you don’t mean it this way, but I couldn’t help but think that if tourists hear the name of a stadium, they should be smart enough to know what the home team is based on knowing what city they are visiting.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      It can be distasteful when long term landmarks pick up corporate names and seem to lose their historical significance.

  24. seamer says:

    What would happen if PBS or NPR sold their naming rights? Some things should just not be up for sale.

  25. Horselady says:


    Advertising has gotten SO out of control in this country!

  26. ElleAnn says:

    I’m all for it, as long as the CTA doesn’t get a one time lump sum like the city did when they leased the parking meters. Hopefully they can reverse the service cuts that went into effect early this year, and I might actually get a seat on the bus every once in awhile.

  27. EllenRose says:

    Lord, lord! It’s confusing enough driving the Chicago free/tollways where the name and highway number hold hands for a few miles then go their separate ways. What happens to somebody used to getting off at Coke Station when Pepsi comes out with a higher bid on the name?

  28. thaJack says:

    Don’t forget congressional appointments.

  29. stock2mal says:

    “Welcome to Carl’s Junior. FUCK YOU!”

  30. OnePumpChump says:

    Sell the right to name the entire city of Chicago.

  31. Dr.Wang says:

    So what happens when there is a serious de-railment on the McDonald’s line and 6 people are killed and 9 seriously injured. Is that sponsor going to suddenly regret having their name on that section of the transit line? Might end up being kind of ironic too.

  32. Urgleglurk says:

    They can sell the naming rights to anyone they want, but Chicagoans aren’t going to magically start using the new names. They’ll still be the ‘Red line,’ etc.(I was born in Chicagoland, btw.) I predict Chicagoans will take this as rank heresy. I sure do.

    This is just another stupid idea – a “quick buck fix” that won’t fix anything. it betrays a lack of foresight and leadership from the city. But who expects that from our leaders anymore? /semi snark

  33. Mish says:

    Can’t wait to take the Welles Fargo line to historic KFC Park.

  34. Weekilter says:

    Of course they’ll do it! Everything else is for sale why not the CTA? Do you know any facet of life that’s not for sale for a price?

  35. gman863 says:

    If the CTA has a retard short-bus service, maybe Comcast will do the right thing by putting its name on it.