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Metro Considering Food and Retail Sales

When Metro was considering service cuts to balance its budget, many riders demanded that the transit authority do more to raise money, and without raising fares.

One effort to do that is under way: The Metro staff is working on a plan that would allow shops to set up in stations and offer take-home prepackaged food, dry-cleaning services or newsstands. Metro officials say it could be done as early as this fall, if the board of directors approved. [See Post story by Lena H. Sun. Or see another take on the topic at Greater Greater Washington.]

The problem is always with the food and drinks. Metro famously does not allow consumption of such things in stations or on trains. But as you often point out to me, this rule is often violated.

Three years ago, the transit authority put out a request for proposals on setting up shops in stations, but not shops that sold food and drink. Only three proposals came in. This new proposal is designed to broaden the field, though it still would bar the sale of alcohol or tobacco.

The deal would work like this: A master licensee could pay Metro to operate at least one retail site at a minimum of 12 rail stations for a three-year term with five, one-year options to renew a contract. The transit authority also would consider proposals from individual businesses.

The sales points could be permanent structures or kiosks in the stations, including mezzanines, sidewalks and the Kiss & Ride lots. [Read more details of the proposal here.]

What do you think? Metro points out that some other transit systems that ban eating and drinking -- Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago -- do allow the sale of packaged food and beverages. Can that work here, or is the food barrier something we don't want to cross?


By Robert Thomson  |  May 7, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Dr. Gridlock: I seem to remember that, a while back, you took a trip to Mexico City to Mexico City to see the transit system.

One thing you might have noticed is the prevalence of shops in the Metro stations -- nearly every station has something, ranging from convenience shops and herbal remedy kiosks to restaurants, bookstores, and even clothing stores. The shops fit into the stations without disrupting traffic, and they even improve safety by providing an incentive to station additional security officers.

I remember that Metro was considering building a tunnel between Gallery Place and Metro Center. Mexico City built a similar tunnel between two stations on the pink line (Zocalo and Pino Suarez), and the entire thing is lined with shops. Did you see this? This might be a good way of implementing a necessary improvement (the tunnel) while funding it by selling retail space inside.

Posted by: stuckman | May 7, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

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