BART reverses policy, rejects alcohol ads

BART officials cited concern for children in reversing a previous decision that would have allowed alcohol ads on the transit system for the first time in the agency’s history.

The BART board of directors voted in September to allow the ads, which were expected to generate $400,000 in revenue, after the agency learned it was facing a deficit. But complaints from parents, concerned that their children would be tempted to experiment with alcohol after seeing the advertisements, and resolutions from both the San Francisco and Contra Costa boards of supervisors asking the agency to reconsider its stance spurred the turnabout.

“[The vote] was almost exclusively focused on the impact alcohol ads would have on minors,” BART spokesman Linton Johnson said, adding that the resolutions “factored into the board of directors’ decisions.”

The agency already prohibits advertisements that contain nudity, tobacco and any action that promotes illegal activity, according to Johnson.

A recent study of children from the ages of 9 to 11 found that they were more familiar with the frog used in Budweiser beer commercials than icons such as Tony the Tiger from Frosted Flakes cereal, according to the Marin Institute, a public advocacy group.

BART Director Gail Murray said she was “adamant” against the advertisements when they were first discussed in September. Because of her opposition at that time, the agency put off entering into a contract with any alcohol companies until what was expected to be a final approval at Thursday’s hearing.

In October, San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano drafted a resolution urging BART to reconsider its September vote. One BART boardmember pointed out the irony of The City’s resolution since its own transit agency, Muni, has limited alcohol ads on bus shelters, according to Johnson. However, Muni is scheduled to follow both the direction of BART and other transit agencies in the Bay Area by banning alcohol advertisements next year.

Muni allows alcohol ads on its shelters but bans them on stops within 500 feet of a school and on all its vehicles, according to spokeswoman Maggie Lynch. She said they would remain until the agency’s advertising contracts expired next year.

Both SamTrans, which has 55,000 daily riders, and Caltrain, which transports 35,000 commuters daily, have long prohibited posters from alcohol companies on its cars, according to Jonah Weinberg, a spokesman for both agencies.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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