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Ford government looks to sell naming rights for GTA GO stations

Last Updated Aug 1, 2019 at 5:44 pm EDT

Ontario is considering the sale of naming rights for GO Transit stations, parking lots and even washrooms in a bid to find new revenue sources for its regional transit network in the Greater Toronto Area.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said Thursday that the government believes the move will increase income for provincial transit operator Metrolinx, and help keep fares low.

“We are looking to maximize the value of Metrolinx assets, properties, and services to increase non-fare revenue while improving services for our customers,” she said in a statement.

The province estimates it can make between $50,000 to $500,000 a year on rights for some stations, which would retain their original names while also featuring a sponsor’s name and branding.

The agreements – which could range between five and 10 years – would also provide sponsors with ridership data, although Mulroney noted that it would be stripped of personally identifying information.

“No agreements will be entered into without a thorough and complete process, including approval by the Metrolinx management team and the government,” she said. “Customer privacy is of utmost importance. Any agreements will protect customers’ privacy.”

Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins also said the agency is committed to maintaining riders’ privacy.

“All data collected to develop ridership analytics is aggregated and non-identifiable and does not contain individualized or personal information that can be tied to an actual person,” she said in a statement.

A 60-day consultation with stakeholders on the naming rights proposal launched Thursday.

The government said it is initially seeking interest in the naming rights for five GO Transit stations – Whitby, Pickering, Exhibition, Clarkson and Oakville.

The province could then expand the sale of naming rights to station parking lots, washrooms in stations and on GO trains, and established “quiet zones” on trains.

Mulroney said the entire idea is an example of Premier Doug Ford’s efforts to find new revenue sources to bolster government services.

“We’re keeping more money in people’s pockets by seeking innovative private sector partnerships in an effort to keep fare costs low,” she said.

NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said she’s concerned about the sell-off of any customer data to private interests and asked Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to look into the government proposal.

Singh said Metrolinx should use customer data to provide service improvements for the regional transit system, not to further commercial interests.

“We see this government constantly make things up as they go along,” she said. “With something like this, Ontarians need to be consulted first and they need to understand how their information is going to be used.”

GO Transit’s train and bus network stretches from Peterborough to Niagara Falls and north to Barrie.