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Port Authority customers to face new advertising methods

Tom Fontaine

Port Authority of Allegheny County riders soon will see — and hear — more advertising pitches when they travel on buses and the T light-rail system.

The cash-strapped transit agency reached a deal with Dayton, Ohio-based Commuter Advertising to test on-board, scrolling text and audio advertising for one year.

Advertisements will include 10-second audio spots and scrolling text on electronic message boards. The deal is in addition to the many poster ads inside vehicles.

“It has the potential to generate revenue. It also has the potential to generate ire,” Port Authority CEO Steve Bland said on Wednesday.

Terri Landis, Port Authority’s director of advertising sales, said the agency will decide whether to continue the agreement beyond a year based on customer feedback and its potential to generate revenue. Ads should begin running in some buses in about a month.

Landis said Commuter Advertising will provide technology that ties advertising to buses’ locations, as determined by GPS.

For example, she said, a pizzeria owner might pay to have an audio advertisement read every time a bus goes by the business.

Commuter Advertising will hire local representatives to seek advertisers, collecting 50 percent of the money from every deal they land.

If Port Authority lands the ad, Commuter Advertising will get 40 percent for providing the needed technology to broadcast it.

Landis said several transit agencies across the country offer similar advertising, including ones in Kansas City, Seattle and the Chicago area.

Revenue averages $200,000 to $300,000 a year, she said. Port Authority brings in about $1.3 million annually through advertising.

The agency is starting to see increased revenue through changes to its advertising policy in April, which allow a wider range of advertisements, including ones pitching alcohol.

Landis said the agency has generated $120,000 that it could not have collected under the former advertising policy. The ads range from urging people to buy a bottle of wine in a state liquor store to ones debuting next month that pitch Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who said this spring that Port Authority needs to do a better job of ferreting out nontransit sources of revenue, welcomed the moves.

“If you can find a way to raise revenue without raising fares, I think that would be a win-win,” Fitzgerald said.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or [email protected].


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