Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brutal Truth About Retail in Metro

Metro has issued this presentation to be given at the Feb. 26 Board of Directors meeting. For the most part, it contains nothing that hasn't been discussed at length here and in other outlets about bridging the budget gap, but we did find it interesting that in 2006, WMATA explored the idea of allowing retail in some of the stations. It went so far as to issue RFPs for potential retail locations in 12 stations. Mind you, this was June 2006, when things were still booming economically. The response?
Only three (3) unsatisfactory responses were received for the highest ridership stations, and staff subsequently rejected them. One proposal was for a shoe shine stand at Gallery Place-Chinatown station, one was for a newsstand at Rosslyn station and one was for a newsstand at Metro Center station. Both newsstand proposals included the sale of packaged food and beverages.

In 2007, Metro again investigated the idea and issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI). This time around there were eight responses, "four of which were from large, national operators of newsstands and retail kiosks." However, these operators said "newspapers and magazines account for less than 30% of the newsstand business. Newsstand operators advised that they would not propose for retail sites offered in an RFP unless the current prohibition on food and beverage sales was lifted."

Furthermore, the operators said that the traffic required to make installing a kiosk worthwhile can only be found at eight Metro stations.

Still, according to a WMATA survey, "57% of respondents said they would likely patronize newsstands and 53% said theywould shop at a convenience store with items such as souvenirs, flowers and light groceries."

We'd love to see Metro's stations livened up with retail. Metro's architectural style is "brutalist," and while interesting and perhaps even attractive to casual users, for the everyday rider, you begin to see why this style of architecture is named such. Terry Gilliam should have filmed the mass transit segments of his dystopian masterpiece "Brazil" in DC's Metro.

Metro seems to concur about the difficulty in installing retail locations in its unwelcoming atmosphere, writing "based on the information provided above, Metro staff views a mobile vending program as potentially feasible for WMATA. Some potential retail uses as part of this program could include florists, dry cleaning drop off/pick up, and take-home packaged gourmet dinners.

Another factoid we found interesting in the report was that "between $450,000 and $500,000 additional advertising revenue could be generated if Metro allowed for alcohol advertisements on Metrobus and Metrorail."

We wish them luck.

Other news:
DC readies for streetcars?
Congestion is getting better?

Photo: John Morris


Anonymous said...

I agree. It's totally dreary

Anonymous said...

looks like WTOP is following your site. they were way later with this then you

Anonymous said...

WTOP totally ripped you off man!

Andrew W said...

I just realized they don't allow alcohol ads. Why not? Alcohol rules!

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