Subway Wraps: Innovative Transit Revenue Streams (Not Sandwiches)…

Image Courtesy NYC The Blog (Click for more information)

We’ve written before about the financial crunch facing most transit operators in the current economy, but many agencies are countering difficult decisions with new ways to supplement revenue beyond the usual raising of fares and cutting staff and service.

Last year, the Transit Cooperative Research Program issued a report titled Practical Measures To Increase Transit Advertising Revenues (107p. PDF). It states that:

The overarching conclusion is that transit advertising is well positioned to grow, assuming that the overall economy cooperates and the advertising business as a whole keeps growing. The outlook from organizations that track media trends is that the shifting of dollars out of traditional media and into non-traditional formats will continue.

 The research team also recommended that the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) form or endorse formation of an independent transit advertising trade association and that transit agencies “introduce digital and interactive (experiential) technologies to transit advertising.”

An article this month in Metro Magazine discusses transit business development efforts through creative advertising, and highlights success stories in Oceanside (CA) and Purcellville (VA), as well as the Florida Legislature’s interest in allowing school buses in the state to sell ads on the sides of buses.

This week, a much larger agency made a huge splash: The New York MTA broke new ground by unveiling the first-ever subway wrapped in advertising. The ads for Target (opening in East Harlem in July) will run for six weeks and are expected to bring in $250,000 in additional revenue for the cash-strapped agency.

A photo collection of the campaign can be viewed here, and here’s some video footage of the rolling advertisement in action:

As you can see, the wrapping is just on the outside, as opposed to the Holland Times Square Shuttle which saw several visually arresting interiors during its installation, in addition to external wrapping.

Images via NYC The Blog

We’ve seen buses wrapped in advertising for a long time now, and light rail as well. However, this is believed to be the first time an entire subway train has been covered with revenue-generating advertising.

This Toronto Transit Commission streetcar is decked out with a full-body wrap of advertising for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2008.

Given the challenges of providing great service in the current economic climate as well as the embrace of new advertising and revenue models, expect to see more outside-the-box partnerships in the future. Whether people support public transportation through economic necessity, “greening” their lives, or personal preference, the TCRP Report states that transit advertising must find a way to counter the lack of credibility, relevance and distinctiveness in today’s advertising marketplace.

Meanwhile, sooner rather than later, we may not be far off from seeing even more unusual ventures coming our way, such as this IKEA installation in a Paris Metro Station earlier this year.

Images via Freshome