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Advertising on BART cars: Easy money or tacky intrusion?

By dcuff
Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 8:58 pm in BART, Fare systems, rail.

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.


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8 Responses to “Advertising on BART cars: Easy money or tacky intrusion?”

  1. Dave Says:

    As long as they didn’t cover the windows, I don’t really see an issue with trying to make some money in a downtrodden economy. California is in a terrible budget crisis, and trying this out would be a possible minor solution. I can see it as being very tacky though, but buses, taxicabs, and some trains carry advertisements on them, so it would be a bit hypocritical to say that BART is above that.

  2. Queen Says:

    I’m with you on this one, Dave! Let’s get real: BART needs the money, and as you say, we’re all used to seeing bus, cab and train wraps. Also, light rail systems in other systems accept the wraps.

  3. Mike Says:

    Caltrain has done wraps, and they did obscure the windows. The Target one was particularly bad.

    If they can put up advertising and keep the 15-minute headways on nights and weekends, I’d be all for it. The thought of having to wait even longer at 10:45 pm because you stopped at the restroom after the theatre is not appealing.

  4. Queen Says:

    I agree, Mike! As a matter of fact, I’d be even willing to forego the view. Aesthetics come second in these days of financial straits, in my opinion.

  5. Ian Says:

    I generally dislike wrapping with ads, but only when the vehicle looks better without it (i.e. go ahead and wrap ugly buses, it’s like a new paint job)

    however, i would definitely keep 15 minute headways, if it meant wrapping trains. so maybe, lets use the ads to get through the depression, and set a time limit so that when times are better, the ads come off.

    good enough compromise?

  6. Mary Says:

    In these bad financial times, I’m only too happy to accept painted trains if it means holding the line on fare increases! The trains might even get washed more often!

  7. Mary Says:

    They need to let it light.

  8. Janis Says:

    Considering how filthy the bart cars are these days.
    Advertising would be a welcome change.
    I would imagine that keeping the advertisers happy would include keeping the cars clean.
    I do agree that it should not effect light coming into the train and in keeping visibility out the windows.

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