Bi-State Development takes exterior ads off buses and trains

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ST. LOUIS – As of New Year’s Day, advertisements on the outside of Metro buses and trains are a thing of the past. The Bi-State Development Agency has dropped it, even though it generated millions of dollars per year.

One in four Metro buses, trains, and Call-A-Ride vans had advertising on the outside, with some vehicles having two different sets of ads on them. Bi-State signed a contract with a firm for five years to secure that advertising. The deal has proven profitable, with Bi-State making between $1.3 million and $2 million per year.

But Bi-State Development CEO Taulby Roach said the agency opted to end that program as of January 1.

“Really, we’re kind of reflecting a successful pilot that’s been done in St. Clair County,” he said. “St. Clair County took the advertising off of the trains and buses in that county successfully over the past two years. 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.”

But why give up that revenue?

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“So look, not everything is about money. But one good thing is that over the past five fiscal years, we have consistently made a 1.5% growth budget,” Roach 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.”

Bi-State will still allow the ads inside the vehicles. That will bring in an estimated $525,000—a lot less than the nearly $2 million they were getting previously.

Roach said there’s one more thing to consider.

“Every municipality, every village that we go through, they have their own municipal ordinance about billboards and so on, and part of this is about respecting what that is and not having a rolling billboard through every single community,” he said.


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