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Caltrain to sell naming rights

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Corporate branding of stations could generate millions

A crowded platform at SF Caltrain station. Photo by Sundry Photography

On Thursday, the board of directors that runs Caltrain (the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, or JPB) approved a proposal to sell naming rights to Caltrain stations and other assets, hoping to juice its budget by courting Silicon Valley players eager for more branding opportunities.

Bay Area residents are already used to the ramifications of naming rights deals after buying tickets at Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park), getting bills from Zuckerberg Hospital, and briefly catching a ride at Salesforce Transit Center.

But local public transit bodies like Caltrain don’t usually get in on the rebranding game. San Francisco Examiner reports that the board was moved to consider the deal because of “challenges” with funding as the system expands, although board members nixed specific mention of this in the proposal’s final language.

According to Thursday’s resolution, naming rights could extend to “any rail station or other facility or asset owned or operated” by the board.

Among the standards laid out:

Station names should be accurate and help orient customers as they navigate the Caltrain network. Recognizing the importance of ensuring that customers are able to navigate the system easily, the [board] may require the sponsor’s name to be added to the existing station name (e.g., STATION X/COMPANY X).

The JPB may deny any proposal that violates any applicable ordinance, rule regulation or policy; is offensive, discriminatory or promotes a particular religion or political view. [...] Any sponsorship will require a written agreement between the JPB and the sponsor.

A staff report estimates that naming deals could generate up to $1 million apiece, citing the examples of “multiple peer agencies” in cites like New York, Chicago, and San Diego.