Transportation Ideas to Get Behind

There are finally some regional transportation ideas that are worth getting behind.

The first idea is that the Washington Metro is considering selling naming rights to some of their Metro stations..

Their ideas: Win back riders with a big marketing campaign on increased reliability. Increase the parking fees at some train stations, depending on the location of the station and the time or day of the week. And consider selling the naming rights to some stations — despite ongoing concerns about the risks of adding commercial brand names to historic Metro stops…..

…Selling station naming rights, for example, has often been viewed as a shortsighted solution for the transit agency. The issue was bandied in July 2012, when the majority of Metro riders in a survey said they didn’t want commercial entities attached to the historic names of the stations. At that time, the Metro board decided to “continue current practice of not selling commercial naming rights.”

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But desperate times call for desperate measures.

“Fully leveraging our real estate assets would include examining the marketplace to determine the potential revenue for commercial station naming, which has generated millions of dollars in non-fare revenue for other transit properties,” wrote Lynn Bowersox, Metro’s director of customer service, communications and marketing in her memo to the board.

Bowersox cited two lucrative examples at other transit agencies: New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority was paid $4 million for a 20-year deal to rename Atlantic Avenue Station as Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center Station. And the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia earned a collective $9 million when it agreed to rename Pattison Station as AT&T Station, and to rename Market East Station as Jefferson Station, both for five-year terms.

“WMATA staff believes there may be potential station naming opportunities for WMATA at Gallery Place, Navy Yard-Ballpark, Metro Center and L’Enfant Plaza stations due to location, proximity to venues and ridership density,” Bowersox wrote

This is finally a Metro funding mechanism that’s fiscally sound. These assets are just sitting there for WMATA, with no way to monetize their existing stations and infrastructure. Selling the naming rights is a no-cost way to increase funding for Metro without having to raid state governments, taxpayers, or users for more funding. Given the fact that Metro should not get a penny more in tax revenue and needs to either change or die, this is a logical change to raise revenues to improve the rider experience.

The second idea, also from the Washington area, is that there may be some movement on the long-needed new crossing of the Potomac River:

A second Potomac River bridge connecting Montgomery County and Northern Virginia — an idea that has been studied and debated since the 1950s — is again drawing both interest and criticism, as elected officials and transportation planners search for ways to ease the region’s notoriously heavy traffic.

Next week the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, the body that helps set transportation priorities for the metropolitan area, will consider listing the bridge project for further analysis.

“This is my number one for the region,” said Loudoun County Supervisor Ron Meyer (R), a member of the regional planning board. He served on a task force that winnowed more than 80 potential road and transit projects down to 10 for the full board to consider at its July 19 meeting.

The idea of a river crossing north of the perpetually clogged American Legion bridge has long interested businesses, planners and many road-weary commuters.

If you’ve ever driven on the Capital Beltway in Montgomery County, you know how clogged it gets by the American Legion Bridge. Traffic crawls along because the Bridge is a choke point and the only way for traffic to cross between Montgomery County and Northern Virginia Through traffic has to go all the way up to Point of Rocks in Frederick County before finding another crossing of the Potomac River. This is another project (much like the Intercounty Connector before it) that should have been built decades ago and would provide a tremendous relief to traffic on the Capital Beltway and make it easier for customers in Virginia to do business in Maryland and vice-versa. And while the costs are a concern, there is always the option of privatization to construct a connector road (as an extension of the ICC) and bridge into Virginia.

Both of these transportation news items may seem disconnected, but they are potential boons for taxpayers and consumers across Maryland.

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