In recent years, transit authorities have sought to boost revenue by selling souvenirs and offering special deals on their Websites. Several agencies, including the Chicago Transit Authority and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, have created online stores on their Websites offering hats, shirts, books and posters.
Now, online sales are moving into a new phase. A handful of transportation authorities have taken out-of-service vehicles, spare parts, signs and other used pieces of their infrastructure and begun pushing them as memorabilia on their Websites or at third-party online auction houses.
Selling the retired items provides both a source of extra income and a legitimate outlet for disposing of potentially unwieldy leftover materials.
Everything but the sink
New York City Transit (NYCT) has been particularly dedicated to the practice, selling out-of-use odds and ends as collectibles. Items for sale include parts from NYCT’s retired fleet of Redbird subway cars and benches recently decommissioned from the Lexington Avenue subway line.
According to the NYTC Website, www.mta.nyc.ny.us/nyct/ the new sales program is “designed especially for buyers interested in acquiring a little bit of [NYCT’s] history.”
Station signs, doors, gauges, fareboxes, lighting fixtures, vintage tokens, subway car handholds, seats and horns are among the various salvaged parts marketed as memorabilia.
“Normally this material would be put in scrap containers and sold for scrap material,” says Mike Zacchea, assistant chief operating officer for NYCT. But this is not the first creative method of discarding old equipment used by the authority.
NYCT has also donated leftover subway cars to several state governments to be dumped into the Atlantic Ocean with the purpose of forming artificial reefs. In fact, NYCT has dropped more than 1,000 subway cars in waters off Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia over the past two years.
Still, the memorabilia and collectibles sales program has been more profitable, pulling in approximately $40,000 between March and October.
Hawk it on eBay
Others have turned to eBay for help in getting rid of used equipment. A cursory search through the site’s pages reveals dozens of buses, trolleys, train cars and transit-related novelties offered by private sellers. Transit agencies are now getting in on the act.
Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) placed a 1985-model trolley tour bus made by Chance Coach on eBay Oct. 1. The opening bid was $10,000 and, after 10 days and 31 bids, the trolley finally sold to a non-transit business for $35,100.
The trolley, which had been used in special service for years in the Milwaukee area, had approximately 113,500 miles and was described as being in above average condition. The eBay listing for the vehicle contained specifications, pictures and terms of sale requirements.
Says Joe Caruso, marketing director for MCTS, “This was the first of three vehicles we plan to sell on eBay. We want to confirm the sale and follow up before we sell the next one.”
Caruso says transit agencies typically use a finite number of methods to get rid of out-of-service vehicles but that online auctioning could become a viable option. “We have experimented with eBay before by selling a bus engine, and it made revenue we normally wouldn’t get,” he says.