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Stand Clear of the Doors — It’s Time for a Big Mac!

8:34 AM PDT on September 6, 2013

How much exposure to advertising should fare-paying transit users be expected to tolerate? Is a relatively minor fiscal benefit worth slapping ads on every bus, bus stop, subway platform and train car? Where does it end?

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These questions are on the mind of Ben Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas, in light of an Atlantic Cities report on the latest thing in transit ads. In a small number of systems in the U.S., Kabak says, advertisers are testing the airwaves with audio commercials targeted at bus riders. Writes Kabak:

Audio ads in transit systems are part of a natural progression as transit agencies seek to squeeze every dollar out of every possible outlet. These ads too aren’t just stock spots. The company selling them has implemented a GPS-based technology that allows ads targeted to specific routes and destinations to play as buses near those locales. Currently, riders in 11 metro areas -- but not, obviously, New York -- are subject to these ads, but some transit agencies are hesitant to embrace them for fear of irking riders.

"Riders can always wear headphones," writes Atlantic Cities' Eric Jaffe, "and audio campaigns might even prompt transit agencies to fix their habitually busted speaker systems."

Kabak is not as sanguine. For a system like that of Champaign, Illinois, he writes, "Money from audio ads won’t avert any sort of fare hike should one be necessary. Play enough audio messages, though, and riders feel harassed by them."

Elsewhere on the Network today: Green Lane Project Blog has compiled a field guide to North American bike lanes. Transit Miami finds debris from a car crash littering a Biscayne Boulevard sidewalk nearly two weeks later. And Bike Portland talks to Elly Blue about her new book, "Bikenomics."

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