Metrolinx Wants To Sell Your Station (And Rider Data) To The Highest Bidder
Next stop, Starbucks Station!
GO Transit riders may need to double-check their Google Maps soon. Metrolinx is selling naming rights for several GTA stations. Starting off, the transit authority will be putting five high-traffic stations up for grabs, with hopes that the re-naming business could net them millions in the not too distant future. But riders beware — some terms of the station sales are causing concern.
The first stations for sale are Whitby, Pickering, Oakville, Exhibition, and Clarkson. The Ford government is taking bids from potential buyers for the naming rights and they’re hoping for $50,000 to $500,000 in revenue per station.
With 66 GO Rail stations, and using Metrolinx’s figures, the transit authority could be swimming in $3.3 to $33 million in revenue.
And if you were hoping all this money might help you — It is unclear if riders will be directly rewarded, or if all the new cash will help decrease fare increases or make your commute cheaper.
Toronto commuters are desperate for more affordable transit. In April, Metrolinx reduced PRESTO fares for short-distance trips by up to 40 percent … but they also increased longer trips.
A careful review of the documents also reveals more than money will be changing hands.
The official notice released by Metrolinx refers to exchanges of data that could potentially provide “aggregated and anonymized GO Transit ridership data” for “customer mapping research.” In other words, Burger King could know when and where Toronto riders go if they purchase a stop.
NDP deputy leader Sara Singh told the Toronto Star she was concerned what this language means. “In the era of ‘big data,’ people are very concerned about privacy breaches happening,” Singh said. She said it was unclear what the data would be used for and how it would be collected — and she wants answers.
To get those answers, Singh wants the province’s privacy investigator to take a closer to how Metrolinx’s plans to share riders’ information.
Metrolinx insisted that any shared data would not contain financial and personal details collected through the Presto card system, as reported by The Star.
In April, Transit riders were hit with the news that next year they’ll no longer receive discounts when using the TTC and GO Transit together. This will cost riders an extra $1.50 per combined trip beginning in March 2020.
Starbucks Station will probably only be sweeter if it comes with a side of savings.