The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will consider if it wants to allow advertisements on the exterior of buses — a policy change that could result in as much as $500,000 annually in additional revenue, the staff estimates.
RFTA currently doesn’t allow advertisements on the outside of buses, but the agency’s board of directors said last year they wanted to revisit the policy at some point. RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship said he was able to pull together some information to get the discussion started. Now seems to be a good time for the board to “dip its toes in the water,” he said.
RFTA allows ads on the interiors of buses, but traditionally there’s been resistance to the thought of ads on the outside. Critics generally have contended it is aesthetically unpleasant and makes the Roaring Fork Valley appear like anywhere else. Blankenship acknowledged in a memo to the board that advertisements might not sit well with the public.
“Could external advertisements be controversial from the public’s perspective or unacceptable to some of RFTA’s members jurisdictions?” Blankenship asked. “Should financial considerations outweigh jurisdictional preferences with respect to aesthetics?”
Other transit systems in the Colorado mountains run ads on the outside of buses. ECO Transit in Eagle County and the Summit County bus system allow external ads, according to Blankenship. The town of Avon also accepts ads.
RFTA board chairwoman and Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt has expressed skepticism in past meetings about ads on the outside of buses, but she said Monday that she has softened her position. She said it is worth a discussion and that she would be willing to consider ads as long as some parameters were set.
“I don’t know if I want to see bottles of whiskey or cigarettes on the sides of a bus,” Whitsitt said.
She won’t be able to participate in the discussion because she will be in Denver at a Colorado Association of Ski Towns meeting.
Political ads by candidates or issues committees aren’t allowed on the inside of RFTA buses.
Blankenship’s memo said it is difficult to determine how much revenue the ads could produce without knowing what would be acceptable, if anything, to the board and what could be possible logistically.
The number of buses in use varies by season. It’s highest in winters, closely followed by summers. The amount of exposure the ads would receive would drop dramatically in spring and fall. RFTA also would have to determine how much space would be available on buses and whether or not there would be restrictions on content. San Francisco, for example, bans ads promoting alcohol, tobacco and firearms.
“Staff estimates that if onerous restrictions are not placed on either the content of advertisements or the space available for advertisements on each bus, the RFTA revenue potential could be approximately $1,000 per month per bus,” Blankenship’s memo said. “However, given the seasonal nature of RFTA’s service, not all vehicles would be placed in service during the spring and fall offseasons, and this would impact revenue.
“Nonetheless, the revenue potential could approach $500,000 per year, depending upon how the program is structured,” Blankenship wrote.
Ads wouldn’t be permanent. They would be a “wrap” that can be placed on the bus and taken down after a set amount of time, Blankenship said. Denver’s light-rail system uses the wraps, including some of the Silver Bullet Coors Light beer can.
The RFTA staff is advising the board to determine if it wants to look further into external ads. If so, RFTA would contact code-enforcement personnel in the towns and cities of the Roaring Fork Valley to determine if there are legal or regulatory impediments to the ads. If not, the next step would be for RFTA to write a policy on external ads. Ultimately, a request for proposal would be issued to find a contractor that would coordinate and sales and placement of the ads.
The ad policy is among several items RFTA will discuss at its meeting Thursday at Carbondale Town Hall. The meeting starts at 8:30 a.m.
“I don’t know if I want to see bottles of whiskey or cigarettes on the sides of a bus.”
RFTA board chairwoman