Stranded Muni riders can now battle each other at bus stops

Waiting at a transit stop for a long-overdue Muni bus ranks right up there with a dreadful San Francisco experience such as watching the 49ers getting shut out at home.

While there may be little hope for The City’s football team, the wait for Muni will get a little more bearable, thanks to a promotional campaign launched this week that will give transit riders the chance to play video games at bus shelters.

Billing its new advertising initiative as a “Bus Stop Derby,” tech giant Yahoo has installed digital video screens at 20 bus shelters in San Francisco, mostly in the downtown area. As part of the promotion, transit passengers from 20 specified neighborhoods will get the chance to compete against each other in different video games — and the community that wins the two-month contest will host a block party featuring the rock band OK Go.

To compete, passengers need only to tap the screen and choose one of four games, which range from visual puzzles to sports trivia competitions. Once a rider has selected which neighborhood they want to represent, they can challenge any other waiting passenger to a live competition. Also, for anyone curious about duping the system, Yahoo has set up barriers to prevent any sort of automated competition.

Each time a rider wins a contest, their neighborhood receives 100 points. The neighborhood with the most points by Jan. 28 will be crowned the winner and get to party with OK Go on Feb. 5. Once the victorious community has been decided, the exact details of OK Go’s performance will be finalized.

The Yahoo promotion is made possible by Muni’s advertising agreement with Clear Channel. As part of the pact, Clear Channel must provide the Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, with a minimum of $8.6 million in advertising revenue this year. In exchange, Clear Channel works with advertisers to bring promotional campaigns to bus shelters owned by the MTA.

“This is the first thing like this in San Francisco, and it’s certainly a new idea,” said Kristen Holland, MTA spokeswoman. “Digital advertising is a big part of advertising right now, and we want to make sure we get the most of this feature. We’re waiting to see how folks respond to this; hopefully they all enjoy it.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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