Metro: No Ads On Buses, Despite (Or Because Of) Tough Economic Times

Anyone who has taken mass transit in most major cities knows one thing: There are a ton of ads on the buses and trains.

Not in Houston, though. And that policy won't change anytime soon, even though one study showed Metro could get "tens of millions of dollars" over 15 years if they did so.

We guess when you're tossing around big bucks on rail, a couple of tens of millions isn't much.

When Metro was first created way back in the 1970s, advertising was frowned on by the founders who thought it was tacky. Occasionally the matter has been broached since then.

About five years ago, Metro V-P George Smalley tells Hair Balls, the agency put out a request for bids for bus-shelter ads. The results showed the aforementioned "tens of millions" in revenue and savings over a 15-year period were possible. (The savings would come from bus-shelter maintenance being the responsibility of the winning bidder, not Metro.)

But there were problems: "The effort stalled, in part, because of an existing city ordinance prohibiting commercial advertising in city rights of way, which is where our shelters are located," Smalley says.

Last year, the agency tried again, this time looking into advertising strictly on buses. Again, no go. "This was during the national economic collapse," Smalley says. "I don't recall the specific numbers in the bids, but the revenue potential was anemic and not deemed sufficient enough then to further pursue advertising on buses."

He says there are no current studies, or plans to further request advertising bids, underway at Metro.

So you'll just have to keep entertaining yourself with the Metro informational posters on the buses, we guess.

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