Bus shelter ads could provide windfall

Although San Francisco’s cash-strapped Muni stands to make more than $200 million in advertising revenue over the next 20 years from a new bus shelter contract, critics say the plan violates the spirit of an anti-billboard measure passed by voters in 2002, by bringing the large-scale signs down to the street level.

On Thursday, Mayor Gavin Newsom took a tour of a public display ofproposed new transit shelter models, created by three different companies competing for the right to build and maintain up to 1,500 new Muni shelters. The models boasted such features as solar panels and digital screens that provide real-time projections of when the next vehicle will arrive.

The current transit shelter contract expires in December. That contract is in the hands of CBS Outdoor, which is pitching for the new contract along with Clear Channel and Cemusa.

Municipal Transportation Agency Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said one of the reasons the contract is going out for re-bid is that the current deal doesn’t require CBS to provide the MTA with any of the revenue that comes from advertising in its shelters.

The contractor chosen for the job will be required to pay the MTA a percentage of advertising revenue or an annual minimum that over 20 years adds up to more than $193 million. The contractor will also be expected to make a one-time, upfront payment of $4 million to the MTA, provide the transit agency with $500,000 a year to oversee the bus shelter contract and contribute $265,000 annually to The City’s Youth in Art fund.

Even if the shelters are free, the cost is too high since it will cheapen the look of The City and deluge residents with advertisements they already said they didn’t want, critics said.

“San Franciscans clearly don’t like to be overwhelmed by general advertising signs,” said Dee Dee Workman, executive director of the nonprofit San Francisco Beautiful, which championed Proposition G, a 2002 anti-billboard ballot measure supported by 77 percent of The City’s voters.

Newsom said The City was trying to find a balance between the costs of street fixtures and the advertising that pays for them.

Mayor revisits bike-sharing idea

When Mayor Gavin Newsom took his first look at models for proposed new bus shelters on Thursday, the first question he asked Muni chief Nathaniel Ford was, “What about the bike component?”

The mayor was referring to a program The City is studying to offer a bicycle-sharing plan that would operate out of 10 to 20 stations throughout The City, incorporated into bus shelters. According to proposal guidelines given to companies bidding for the bus shelter contract, the program would allow participants in the bike-sharing program to prepay, similar to car-sharing programs.

This is not Newsom’s first stab at creating a bike-sharing program in The City. For numerous reasons, including insurance concerns and theft, the program failed.

Newsom said, with new technology, he feels the time is right to once again explore the idea.

beslinger@examiner.com

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