Monday, January 8, 2007

Bus stop snowed in? Don't complain to your transit system

Denver CO - A 9News report out of Denver tells of snowed in bus stops and the reaction from the public to them. The story also points out a little more than the reporter thought as well.

The snow packed bus shelters don't belong to Denver's Regional Transit District (RTD) but to private advertising companies that have contracted with private land owners to erect advertising shelters. This creates a legal dilemma for the RTD and its riders as the RTD isn't legally allowed or obligated to shovel out the snow to make the shelters accessible.

The RTD's 585 shelters that it owns are cleaned out and ready to go however.

This points out an issue I have had concern with for a while now. When a private company supplies a shelter or bus bench for advertising and doesn't maintain it properly, the general public instantly points fingers at the transit system as though it was their responsibility. This ultimately gives a public relations black eye to the operation.

The issue at hand is that the transit system doesn't own the vast majority of the stops nor has the right to maintain them. In most instances, the property owner is the municipal government but contracts for shelters often come with a provision that the shelter owner take responsibility for the stop so the land owner doesn't have to deal with it.

With advertisers realizing that transit advertising works and has been under utilized for years, they're rushing to erect ad shelters and ad benches as fast as they can get the contracts with the land owners the stop is located at. In most cases, the transit system receives no revenue from these ad benches and ad shelters nor even has a say in the placement, design and ads displayed even though those shelters reflect directly on the transit system.

Shelters and benches should be labeled clearly as to who owns and maintains them and contracts between the ad agency and stop owner need to call for a 24 hour period at most to respond to any problems. After all, these shelters reflect directly on the transit system, not the advertising agency that put them up. The Denver news report shows that many people just blamed the RTD and had no idea that those shelters were privately owned and I'm willing to bet that there was no clearly visible labels stating who to call for problems regarding those shelters. The RTD received a public relations black eye from the advertising companies not getting the shelters dug out in a timely manner.

In the RTD's case, one of the ad shelter owners, CBS Outdoors, was unprepared for the snow storm and now has a vast crew of 11 people out shoveling the snow out the 2,600 stops it owns. No word on the other 4 ad firms that own many of the other stops in the RTD operating area.

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