Saturday, September 17, 2011

MTA "maximizes revenue" by covering bus windows with ads

Okay, our Muni system is chronically underfunded and has to look for more money wherever it can. But it's simply hypocritical to continue claiming that the SF is a "transit first" city while showing such contempt for those of us who rely on Muni.

From the Budget and Legislative Analyst department's report on the city's advertising policies:

Titan may apply advertising wraps to all vehicles except historic streetcars and cable cars, provided wraps cover a maximum of 20 percent of vehicles and do not cover vehicle numbers, SFMTA insignia or windows (page 5).

If the contract says that bus windows can't be covered with ads, why are there a lot of buses with windows covered by ads? Is that left over from an old contract or are the terms of the present contract being violated? As a regular Muni passenger, I find it annoying and unacceptable to have views of the city obstructed by a grid of dots, which is what the city looks like through windows covered by ads.

In any event, apparently the ban on covering bus windows has officially been lifted. From a recent Chronicle story: "Muni officials say that both the agency's security team and the police have signed off on the new plan. They say the window-wrap material is perforated vinyl that won't obstruct views."

That's simply untrue, since obviously the material does "obstruct views." But why is the opinion of cops presumed to be of any interest on the issue? It's just another layer of bullshit to rationalize the agency's money-grubbing policy.

Of course Ed Reiskin, the new head of MTA, is on board, so to speak, with the new policy: "The agency has to be creative on the revenue side, and that could be wrapping advertisements on buses or selling T-shirts with the Muni logo."

Typical bureaucratic blather that conceals what the MTA is planning to do for "new revenue opportunities," including selling "naming rights" to streetcars, cable cars, and even the West Portal station:

Titan has the authority to design a corporate sponsorship/naming rights program that will maximize revenue for the SFMTA...Possible naming rights options include corporate vehicle sponsorship, particularly for cable cars and historic streetcars, and naming rights for the West Portal MUNI Station, which is the only SFMTA transit station that does not fall under BART’s jurisdiction (page 8).

Apparently this means we'll soon see similar ads on cable cars and streetcars---and, coming soon, the West Portal Station, brought to you by AT & T!

Proposition G, passed by city voters in 2002, applies to the "exterior of City-owned buildings" but not to motor vehicles. The report cites the reasons in the text for limiting billboards and other advertising in public places:

General advertising signs contribute to blight and visual clutter as well as the commercialization of public spaces within the City...San Francisco must protect the character and dignity of the City’s distinctive appearance, topography, street patterns, open spaces, thoroughfares, skyline and architectural features for both residents and 13

In light of the MTA's present policy and its plans for more "visual clutter," this statement of policy is mealy-mouthed hypocrisy.

I even saw a #43 bus the other day that had a window-covering advertisement for the SFPark program, which is part of the MTA. Did SFPark get this ad free, or did it transfer money from one MTA account to another in the transaction? Hard to see that as a real "revenue opportunity" instead of just another sign of the contempt that the MTA and the city have for the hundreds of thousands of people who ride Muni every day. 

My earliest post on the issue is here.

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At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely. Get rid of the ads and just raise the goddamn parking meters please!

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SF planners love blight...just look at the over 1000 signs the city has erected in Golden Gate Park to help deface the park.


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