By Josh Cohen.

If things go according to plan for Sacramento Regional Transit District, light-rail riders in the California capital may soon find themselves in stations rebranded with corporate names. The idea to sell station naming rights and advertising comes at a time of significant change for the agency, which recently hired a new general manager and proposed service cuts that could affect one of three light-rail lines.

To date, Regional Transit has never sold advertising in its 53-station system or on train cars themselves. The agency put out a request for proposals three weeks ago asking for companies to bid on ad space in stations and on trains as well as potentially buy the naming rights to an entire station.

General Manager and CEO Henry Li says funding from advertising and naming rights isn’t meant to close budget gaps so much as free up money to upgrade the system or improve service. Li was promoted to general manager in June with a directive to improve rider safety and system performance and clean up the trains, buses and stations, all of which slipped in recent years.

Advertising is, of course, commonplace in transit systems. Selling station naming rights is less so, but there are examples throughout the country. In Minneapolis, U.S. Bank paid $300,000 for the naming rights to the station closest to U.S. Bank Stadium where the Minnesota Vikings play. Philadelphia sports fans heading to a pro game via a SEPTA train get off at AT&T Station. Tampa’s TECO streetcar is named for the TECO electric company.

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