Bi-State Board of Commissioners disapproves of plan to remove ads from buses, trains

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ST. LOUIS – The Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners has slammed the decision of the agency’s CEO to cancel a program allowing advertising on the exterior of buses and trains.

One in four Metro buses, trains, and Call-A-Ride vans had advertising on the outside.
Bi-State made the contract with a firm years ago to get that advertising. The deal proved profitable, with Bi-State netting between $1.3 million and $2 million a year for the past five years.

Last week, Bi-State CEO Taulby Roach said the company decided to end that program on New Year’s Day. Bi-State will allow ads inside the vehicles, which will bring in an estimated $525,000 per year.

Bi-State Commissioner Derrick Keith Cox strongly disagrees with the move.

“I think that everybody watching probably agrees,” he said. “When you think about Metro bus or MetroLink, the number one problem you don’t think of is ads on the side of a train or a bus; the problem is being safe on the transit.”

There were 144 ads on the buses, trains, and vans. Some vehicles had more than one ad. Advertising remains limited to educational institutions, legal, financial, auto salvage, and entertainment companies.

Roach says in their research, riders preferred a cleaner look for the vehicles.

“St. Clair County took the advertising off of the trains and buses in that county successfully over the past two years,” Roach said. “And what we found is that the community likes it a little bit better; it has a more professional and more profound imagery out to the communities that we serve.”

Cox isn’t satisfied and believes that money should have been used to improve security.

“When I asked at a recent meeting how much would it cost and why can’t we have a police officer armed at every platform, the excuse was we didn’t have enough money,” he said. “Now, we’re going to lose $2 million in revenue! How’s (Roach) going to make this up? If we didn’t have it then, now we just throw it away? It doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Roach says it’s not about the money.

“But one good thing is that over the past five fiscal years, we have consistently made a 1.5% growth budget,” he said. “That means that our budget is sound and it makes sense, so when we can do things that the community wants us to do that make our image look good, then it’s important that we do it.”

Cox supports improving the aesthetics of the region’s public transit but believes giving up the money goes against the greater good.

“It’s all about safety and security. This does not make any sense,” he said. “It does not make sense to me, and I’m going to be calling for a board vote on this.”

Roach fired back, saying the loss of those ad dollars will not affect security. At present, Bi-State is spending $50 million to make all MetroLink stations safer by limiting access to customers only. Bi-State also claims to have increased the presence of armed security at stations.


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