Turning a transit sanctuary into a traveling ad space

first_imgSeems there’s no place we’re safe from hearing about hemorrhoid creams and vocational training programs. From supermarket checkout lanes to Web casts, we are bombarded daily with appeals to buy stuff. Even in public bathroom stalls, we ladies come under assault from plugs for various products or services placed on the insides of the doors. However, the advertising invasion is moving into a worrisome direction of the personal now that everything else has been tried. This week, The New York Times reported that marketers are now eyeing cell phones as a way to direct individualized, geographically specific ads to every American adult. The concept is so brazenly unimaginable that it makes it difficult for consumer advocates to kick up much of a fuss. But customers have to start drawing the line on the daily intrusions of advertising before someone figures out how to legally beam holographic spots right into our bedrooms. And here’s where Angelenos can start: city buses. I’m not much of a bus rider, being an Angeleno and all. But when I opt to take public transportation occasionally, it’s to take a break from the traffic grind. If I’m going to get stuck for hours in transit, I might as well be able to enjoy a good book or catch up on my backlog of sudoku puzzles. Having ads blasted into my ears during the long commute is not my idea of a pleasant break from driving. It makes the 405-101 transition in the driving rain at 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday seem, comparatively, blissful. So far, there are no plans to install Transit TV on the light rail lines. A pilot program found some reception problems, Morse said. But surely the clever techies at Transit TV or some similar company will eventually figure a way to make it work. They always do. Mariel Garza mariel.garza@dailynews.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita Anyone who has taken the Orange Line across the San Fernando Valley floor has certainly become familiar with the televisions that come standard on the sleek new buses. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority sees the screens and their programming as an amenity for the public-transit riding population. I see them as part of the insidious campaign to insert some sort of advertising into every waking minute of human consciousness. The Orange Line was just the start. The TVs are being installed in all city buses at the rate of 40 each week by a Florida company called Transit TV ( www.transitv.com ) that does it at its own cost, MTA’s Warren Morse, deputy executive officer of communications told me. Since June, about 1,000 of the city’s fleet of 2,400 buses have received the new screens. By sometime next summer, all the buses will have them. For the privilege of providing a captive audience, MTA is guaranteed at least $100,000 from Transit TV per year. But if all advertising goals are met, the agency could make as much as $6.7 million a year as part of a revenue-sharing deal. It would be one thing if these bus TVs broadcast HBO or CNN or, my favorite, the Sci-Fi Channel. Instead, they emit the decidedly unflashy (but revenue-enhancing!) broadcasts created solely for buses by Transit TV that combine newsbits and ads. Hollywood had very little to do with it. What becomes evident quickly is that Transit TV programming is a thinly veiled excuse to pump advertising into the buses. Initially, MTA got 30 or 40 complaints about the TVs during the first couple months, Morse said, mostly about the sound being too loud. Since then, the volume has been decreased, and the bus drivers given the ability to slightly increase or decrease the volume, and the complaints have tapered off. In fact, according to MTA’s own ridership survey of 17,000 people, about 86 percent said they prefer riding buses with Transit TV. Possibly, that’s the most alarming thing about the TVs. Apparently, people have been well-conditioned to the barrage of noise and shilling going on all around them. last_img read more