Friday, May 19, 2006

Shopping at the Metro?

The Washington Post reports on a proposal to bring vendors into Metro stations:

To boost revenue and provide riders with more conveniences, the transit authority is proposing to open some stations to businesses that would sell a variety of merchandise through kiosks and other retail spaces. A pilot program would set up such retail shops inside and outside 12 Metrorail stations.


When Dan Tangherlini, Metro's interim general manager, outlined the proposal, he initially suggested that Metro ask vendors to provide estimates that included the sale of food. But after much discussion, board members rejected the idea.

In fact, they were worried that even a discussion of such an option could backfire.


In the end... board members chose to eliminate food from all solicitations for proposals. Tangherlini said Metro staff members plan to investigate the option of food and beverage sales separately to see how much additional revenue that would generate. Metro plans to present an updated proposal to board members in the fall.


The food discussion almost overshadowed what Tangherlini said was the significance of the program. "This allows people to use their transit trips to check off something on their to-do list," he said.


The retail spaces would be inside the station in the free or paid area of the mezzanine; outside the station near the entrance, bus bays or Kiss & Ride; or inside the parking garage.

In addition to the food issue, there are some basic problems with having vendors inside stations - the stations just are not built for them. The inside of stations can already get quite crowded. Vendors would take up space, and probably create disruptive lines blocking movement. Some stations could use commercial development nearby, but not inside.

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