As Chicago's budget shortfalls extend to area transportation services, the Chicago Transit Authority has cut services due to the inability to come to some sort of consensus with the CTA worker's union. Metra, the rail system that brings travelers to Chicago from the outer suburbs is taking a different approach. Metra is considering offering the naming rights to all of its train stations, routes, and even the bridges trains cross to generate revenue.
Chicago's regional rail line, suffering budget shortfalls similar to the CTA and Pace has felt the recession due to reduced tax revenues resulting from lower sales along with lower ridership due to unemployment. In 2009, Metra trips fell by over 4 million trips, dropping from 86.8 million in 2008 to 82.3 million a year later. The transportation agency is now searching for ways to increase non-fare revenues.
In 2008, a law approved by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich allowed seniors to ride for free, increasing the loss from fare revenues.
Metra is considering selling advertising space online, on the outside of train cars, as well as proposing the sale of station and route naming rights. According to Metra, other cities have been successful with similar endeavors although it's not known if revenues would cover the budget shortfall.
Metra officials stated that the sales of station names would be done with a certain amount of sensitivity, noting that both the city and the sponsoring company would share the rights for the station's name.