BART might steer its train cars into new money-making territory: turning the cars into moving billboards to help bail the transit system out of a budget jam.
We can hear the outcry. Don’t tarnish the sleek silver and blue cars, a well-known symbol of BART, with tacky advertising. Don’t let advertising invade one more place in our cluttered landscape. Those arguments will be one part of the debate whether BART should proceed with the advertising scheme.
But transit officials also said the economic downturn and the state’s raid on transportation funds has driven BART to scour and scrape for new ways to cut costs or raise money.
This advertisting tool under discusssion is called a train wrap - a display of messages that wrap around the outside of train cars.
Selling ad space on car exteriors would rake in some $500,000 or more a year for BART, transit system managers estimate in a report that the BART board is scheduled to discuss in its meeting 9 a.m. Thursday at 344 20th St., Oakland.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson calls the outside of train cars “the last frontier” in BART not subject to advertising. There is advertising inside train cars and train stations.
One BART worker who did not wish to be identified suggested the train wraps also could keep train car exteriors cleaner by acting as a shield against dirt. Johnson said he was not familiar with that argument.
Bob Franklin, a BART board member from Oakland, said he is open to considering train wraps if the advertising would not cover car windows, ruining views from inside the train and making it harder for riders to identify which station they’re pulling into.
“For half a million bucks, I would look at it,” Franklin said.
How many train cars would be used for advertising is unclear. If too many cars have ads, the messages won’t stand out, BART officials said.
BART has experimented with train wraps before, but to promote BART rather than make money. In a deal announced in 2006, BART partnered with San Francisco International Airport and Travelocity. BART posted SFO and Travelocity logos and ”Take BART to SFO” messages on train cars. In exchange, Travelocity and SFO displayed ads to promote BART.
Back then, BART officials said they would like public feedback on trains wraps and whether their use should be expanded.
We want to know, too. Tell us below whether you think advertising on the outside of BART cars would be a tacky mistake, or a pragmatic way to help BART out of a financial jam.