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Metra Board Members Balk At Selling Station Naming Rights

UP West Metra Train

Metra Train (Credit: Rick Kramer/CBS)

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Metra staff are getting unexpected pushback from some of the commuter rail agency’s board members over proposals to sell the naming rights to its stations and trains.

On one side are directors who are eager to see additional revenue from retailers, other businesses and area attractions. On the other side are directors who say Metra would undercut suburban ordinances limiting ad signage and, in some cases, good taste.

“What about (naming a station for) Victoria’s Secret? How’s that going to play in Barrington?” asked McHenry County board member Jack Schaffer. “I don’t know.”

“We have a really tough sign ordinance and I think we would fight you tooth and nail to put all these advertisements up there,” said irate suburban Cook County director and Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder.

The only areas where directors appeared to agree was on signage at stations for major attractions and memorial plaques, the kind least likely to generate advertising revenue.

Metra staff will report back to board members in May on the proposals, and try to answer objections.

The Metra board also voted to reprioritize a series of capital improvement projects, including funding for a number station repair projects. One $800,000 item would finance engineering studies on a replacement for the rundown 95th Street/Chicago State University stop on the Electric District, even though the station attracts only 50 riders a day.

Again, Schaffer played the Victoria’s Secret card.

“Frankly, the station would make a good fire,” Schaffer said. “I was thinking, if we did name it the ‘Victoria’s Secret’ station, ridership could pick up.”