Would you ride the Macy’s holiday train? Or use the Nike Bus Tracker?

The CTA today moved one step closer to accepting corporate sponsorships for its popular traditions.

The cash-strapped agency issued a request for proposals to sponsor the annual holiday train, Bus and Train Tracker, the penny-ride program on New Year’s Eve and the program for free rides for Chicago Public Schools students on the first day of school.

Sponsorships would include naming rights, branding, advertising, communication and promotion and an on-site event announcing the company’s participation.

In the case of the holiday train, a two-decade tradition, the CTA said the look and feel of the bedazzled train would not change. The agency said it would still continue to control the train’s design.

The CTA experimented with corporate sponsorships in 2009, when Apple agreed to spend nearly $4 million to renovate the North/Clybourn stop on the Red Line in exchange for leasing a strip of city land for free. Apple also has first dibs on naming rights.

The CTA, which began the year with a $277 million budget deficit, has been looking at new ways to raise cash. The agency’s transit board agreed Wednesday to allow alcohol advertising on certain sections of the rail system, which is expected to generate $3.2 million.

IMG is handling the proposals for the CTA, under an agreement approved by the transit board in August. IMG was chosen to solicit sponsorships of the agency's assets and will receive compensation based on the number of sponsorships secured.

Bids are due noon on April 20.

tswartz@tribune.com | @tracyswartz