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Big Foot Reporter Scores

Katie Kreller at the Daily Paper may have some big feet, because she is filling Brad Hem’s shoes nicely if her first couple of offerings are any sign.

Today she jumped on a story about all those bus stop benches that aren’t necessarily at bus stops. While there are only a few specific bus stops around the city–like the mall and downtown–the advertising benches seemed to have just blossomed through the cracks like weeds.

The GUARDIAN remembers when the ad scam got started in about 1973. The Ada County Highway District got a piece of the action–which was something like 10% of the gross. Apparently some 700 benches have been dumped all over the city. At one time the city got federal grants to build bus stops at Vista/Overland and Capitol/University among other spots.

Both Boise City and the ACHD want to control access to the public right-of-way and eliminate the benches. If they are like the EMS folks they will go into business and do their own advertising signs.

Kreller’s other no nonsense story was a routine report on the Boise Police Department’s “annual report.” She jabbed the chief about forgetting some of the unsavory aspects of the look back at the previous year’s activities.

He said “no corporation” puts that stuff in an annual report. TILT! Chief Mike Masterson is the COP–not the CEO. Good job Katie.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. That ‘s it?

    Benches and BPD?

    People sleep on those benches! If we had more benches more people could sleep on benches. Eventually everyone would have a place to sleep.

    Unsavory aspects of BPD?

    Chief Mike Masterson is really a COP?

    I am glad he didn’t have my point or back.

  2. Bench owners use a public resource (side walk, right-of-way or whatever), and harvest an income for advertising. If I were in charge I would not outlaw it, but rather license each bench and harvest a little income to be dedicated to Valley Ride.

  3. curious george
    Oct 5, 2006, 9:15 pm

    Know just a wee bit about this one.

    Before the Highway District can allow Valley Ride to implement its fixed-stop program, it has asked that all these unregulated benches be removed – at no cost to the District. Which is also really important to Valley Ride, because almost every single bench out their is either off an established route, or will be nowhere near the new fixed stops.

    Unfortunately, Valley Ride has no money to spend on removing these eyesores. It’s not that anyone’s necessarily opposed to advertising being tied to mass transit – in fact, look at our ad-spangled buses. Many communities completely fund the installation of bus shelters (not just crappy benches) through the sale of advertising space on the bus shelters. Asking for just 10% of the ad profits would be like hitting up Bill Gates for a dime – when he was prepared to give you a cool million.

    There are national advertising companies that will come into a community, virtually overnight, and install hundreds of bus shelers (exactly where they are needed) just to get their cut of the advertising. During the term of the ad contracts the companies maintain the shelters, with the shelters gradually transferring to public ownership (along with all the ad profits – to help defray maintenance costs).

    For the record, the city had nothing to do with the shelters at BSU. 80% of the money for the shelters came from the Federal Transit Administration and the remaining 20% came from the university (from parking permit proceeds actually). BSU contracted for the design and construction of the shelters, and built a bus pullout in front of the Admin Bldg to make sure the stopped buses didn’t back up traffic. And, as far as I know (and contrary to Kreller’s report), there’s not a lick of advertising on these new shelters.

  4. C. George, do you speak for ACHD or Valley ride?

  5. oh…no wonder the bus never showed up… I have sat on several of those benches for extensive periods of time waiting for the bus and one never showed up. I thought that the benches meant that the bus would drive by, so I concluded that Boise just had a poor bus system, lousey mass transit. Never did I think that it was just an area for advertising.
    Obviously, they are not benches to sit on since no one in Boise ever really walks…except at the Mall and on the gyms’ treadmills. How silly of me.

    Oh, by the way, how does one identify a bus stop (besides downtown and at BSU?)

  6. Back in the 70s, advertising benches, better known to the public as bus benches, were under contract to Boise City – not ACHD. The part about building (the original wood) bus shelters at BSU Towers and the Administration Building with federal grants is correct. Our Federal (transit) tax dollars even funded part of rebuilding downtown streets back in the late 80s. Got to love in-kind match.

    Scam? Depends on your viewpoint. Back in the 70s the contractor paid a part of their revenue (I can’t recall the percentage) to the city owned bus system then known as Boise Urban Stages or BUS. The contractor was responsible for placement (under BUS approval) and maintenance of the benches. There were probably 200 to 300 benches citywide not the 700 or so out there today. Total annual revenue to BUS was relatively small. Less than $10,000 if I remember correctly. Back in those days BUS was a growing transit system carrying more than 1,000,000 fare paying passengers a year.

    Some of the same advertising bench issues existed then as now. Advertising or not? Benches placed on the wrong corner, benches faced for their advertising exposure value not rider convenience, not removed as quickly as we would have liked when bus routes changed, and of course benches placed at places were the bus didn’t run. At least there was some revenue coming into the bus system though. The question was even raised whether advertising on buses made them mobile billboards – something banned by the City (the City decided they were not mobile billboards).

    It appears that Valley Ride (is that their name this week?) may have dropped the ball on the advertising benches. Perhaps the advertising benches got overlooked when they decided to take over the exterior bus advertising from an experienced, but out of town, transit advertising contractor. Or did the City overlook the advertising bench contract in its hurry to wring its hands of BUS and dump it on Valley Ride. Surprise, surprise. What happened to the contract – and its revenue? Maybe the local paper or another local media outlet (Channel 2 you reading this?) needs to ask that question.

    As I understand it, ACHD uses its “licensing” to only to track items on public right of way not to regulate them. Anyone know differently?

    Yes, national firms will come into cities for the transit advertising dollars. But the cities must be either big enough population wise, or have sufficient ridership, to attract the firms. Nationally, transit advertising (on and in vehicles, stations, and shelters) is big business and a nice source of revenue to transit systems. I would respectfully suggest that the Valley is no where near that level yet just as it is no where near the level of being able to support a light rail system.

    And Slim Jim, while you still can, show up at most any corner where a bus passes (maybe signed, maybe not) and flag it down (i.e., wave your arm(s)) at the bus to (hopefully) get it to stop. It’s a “flag stop” system. The term comes from the passenger, and interurban, railroad days. Once the designated stop system goes into effect, you’ll probably be walking a lot further to a stop – but at least you’ll know where it is. Apparently Valley Ride, and their planning contractors, have forgotten the quarter mile service coverage concept and, more importantly, customer service.

    And yes Guardian, I agree with you “… the advertising benches seemed to have just blossomed through the cracks like weeds.”

  7. Caleb Hebel
    Apr 6, 2007, 12:59 am

    I have been reading the above posts and wanted to find out the correct governmental person or transit personnel to contact about providing Boise with a proper bus bench program. My Company provides just the services you mentioned above (legally) and provided funds back to the city in return. We operate a very effective program that specializes in mid-tier markets (where the big guys don’t go). Do you know how many bus stops serve the region? What type of program would work best in the area? Any info would help. Thanks, Caleb

    EDITOR NOTE–Julie or Ken, please contact this guy with the info he wants. I am at Kitty Hawk.

    Contact: [email protected]

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