Tag Archives: bus wraps

Gift-wrapped buses

In case anyone else is confused about why we’re seeing wrapped buses again–despite the fact that the Council banned them three years ago and did not authorize partial wraps until a few weeks ago–I think I finally understand well enough to explain:

Starting in 2007, Metro was prohibited from selling bus ads that covered any part of the vehicle’s windows–not, specifically, bus wraps. At that point, Metro’s ad vendor, Titan, started trying to find advertisers who were willing to create wraps that did not cover bus windows. (This was not easy, since most ad templates do cover windows, and it’s expensive to create a custom template for one market–especially one with other transit agencies, like Sound Transit, with no such constraints.) At first, the only ad sold was to the zoo.

In the meantime (way back in July of 2007), Metro presented the Council with a “partial wrap” proposal, which allowed wraps as long as they left a 15″ portion of each window uncovered. This proposal was endorsed by both the KC Transit Advisory Committee and the Accessible Services Committee, but, thanks to some frustrating drama and politics, the Council didn’t get around to voting on it until last month. (Guess a zillion-dollar budget gap can be a powerful motivator.) During the long wait, Titan was apparently able to sell a few “clear-window” wraps, and those are the wraps we’re seeing now.

BECU wrap
Clear-window BECU wrap (I think this one’s kinda cool.)
HTC wrap
Another clear-window wrap, this one for HTC
HTC wrap
HTC wrap

I assume we’ll start seeing the recently approved partial wraps sometime in the next several months.

Whew! I think I got that right. Metro folks (and all-knowing transit geeks), please chime in with additions or corrections.

Saving service, part II

Assuming its final budget passes next week, the King County Council will not–I repeat not–cut bus service in 2010. From yesterday’s PI:

The council’s soon-to-be-released budget plan will not cut Metro Transit bus service next year as first proposed to fill a projected $213 million revenue shortfall over the next two years, councilmembers announced.

Instead, the council says its final 2010 budget plan will sufficiently plug the gap by diverting money from the King County Ferry District and by adopting recommendations from an audit that found $44 million in potential savings through running more efficient bus routes and other changes. In addition, Metro will eliminate 43 staff positions unrelated to bus service and start selling full bus-wrap advertising.

This is goodness–well, maybe not goodness, but not nine percent across-the-board cuts, either.

Though I happen to love the Water Taxi, I’m all for putting the Ferry District expansion on hold while we figure out how to keep existing transit service afloat. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) I have a feeling that the audit “efficiencies” they’re proposing to implement will actually negatively affect on-time performance, but that’s just a hunch, and regardless, I’ll take ’em.*

I am very (very!) glad to see that bus wraps are back in the mix. When the Council banned them in 2006, Metro lost three quarters of a million dollars in painless** annual revenue. At roughly $100 bucks per service hour, that’s a lot of service to give up over a handful of complaints.*** And since the program capped the number of wrapped coaches at 25, it affected a very small percentage of riders on a given day.

Me? I’d ride a wrapped bus every day (shoot, for every ride) before I’d give up service. But I digress.

The no-service-cuts budget also includes a 50-cent fare increase over the next two years: the 25-cent increase planned for January and another in 2011. Eh–so it goes. Ideal transit scenarios aside, I guess we all have to be willing to pay our fair share.

Update, 11/23: Looks like the budget was unanimously approved today.

*That is, assuming they don’t involve adopting the proposal to replace trolleys with diesel/electric hybrids.
**A vendor managed the selling and installation for a cut of the profits.
***Less than one percent of all of KC Metro’s complaints that year

About that fare increase…

As many of you know by now, there is likely to be a bus fare increase this spring. Given the price of fuel and transit funding constraints, I don’t think Metro really had a choice, so I grudgingly support the increase.

On the other hand, I think it’s time for the state and the county to rethink the way transit is paid for. Currently, Metro’s has two major sources of funding: sales taxes and fares. I’d like to see us explore other options (congestion pricing, tolling, gas taxes, etc.) and explore the possibility of making transit free. My hope is that doing this would have two benefits: reducing fare disputes, thereby making buses faster and safer, and encouraging more people to ride. I talked about this a bit (a very little bit) on KUOW’s Weekday a couple of weeks ago.

Your turn. Should Metro increase fares? If so, is 25 cents enough? If not, how do you think the agency should address the funding shortfall? (One idea, of course, is more bus wraps. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

Speaking of Frida…

Talk about a good reason for a bus wrap:

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Frida’s birth Mexico City converted some of their city buses into “Fridabúses” — moving shrines honoring the painter.

(Source: fridakahlo.it)

Frida on the bus

Frida just so happens to be one of my non-bus-related obsessions. (Be thankful you’ve been shielded from it for so long. My friends and family members haven’t been as fortunate.)

What I wouldn’t give to ride on one of those…

A bus chick’s version of a good day

This morning, I stopped by the County Courthouse to see some demos of the partially wrapped buses. (The Council tabled the vote on whether to allow the partial wraps, so these demos were made available to help the members come to a decision. Members of the Transit Advisory Committee and the Accessible Services Advisory Committee were also invited to take a look.)

The partial wraps leave 15″ clear on every bus window. This looks different on different buses, depending on the size of the windows and the height of the seats. (I apologize in advance for the quality of these pictures; I have yet to replace my broken camera.)

Here’s what a partially wrapped trolley looks like:

Demo of a partially wrapped trolley

Note: There aren’t any real ads designed for this template yet, so the folks at Metro just removed some of the vinyl from an existing ad.

Here’s a New Flyer 40-footer:

Demo of a partially wrapped 40 footer

In this case, instead of altering an existing wrap, they covered the parts of the windows that would be obscured by the ad.

Here’s the view from inside the trolley:

View from inside a partially wrapped trolley

And from the other side:

View from inside a partially wrapped trolley

Anyone recognize the man in the red circle? Yes indeed, Busfather was there as the official driver of the 40-footer. He got to hang out for a couple of hours while the bigwigs (and regular folks like me) checked things out. Not a bad gig for a sunny Monday.

Anirudh, aka Bus Hero, who also happens to be one of my fellow TAC members, was also there.

Anirudh on the trolley:

Anirudh on the partially wrapped trolley

So was my councilmember, Larry Gossett:

Larry Gossett on the partially wrapped trolley

Y’all already know how I feel about bus revenue: I’m inclined to endure a little obscured vision every once in a while if it means more service. The good news is, the partially wrapped buses don’t obscure your vision. I could see out of all the windows, even when I hunched down to make myself shorter. (Of course, I’m not sure how a child riding alone or a person in a wheelchair would do. I’ll leave the latter to the folks at the Accessible Services Advisory Committee.)

Bottom line: We (OK, I) likey. Councilmembers, please vote “yes.”

After the bus viewing, a lovely lunch at the Gates Foundation with my friend Char (which involved a slowish ride on the 70), and a quick trip to the Real Change office, I happened upon Smooth Jazz while crossing the street on my way to catch the 27. (He was driving a bus back to the base, apparently, after finishing his shift.) I waved before I had a chance to remember that he doesn’t actually know me, and he waved back. Turns out, he does know me (and how could he not–I’ve been on his bus about 30,000 times in the past year). He said he hadn’t seen me in a while and had been wondering what I’d been up to. This, of course, made me feel very important and fabulous.

Called up the homies and Im askin yall
Which court, are yall playin basketball?
Get me on the court and Im trouble
Last week messed around and got a triple double
Freaking brothers everyway like m.j.
I cant believe, today was a good day

OK, what if they were partially wrapped?

I’ve been meaning to tell you about this for over a week, but I was away on vacation, enjoying a laptop-free existence.

It seems that the folks at Metro have found a creative solution to the wrapped bus visibility issue. From a recent County Kingpin news release:

Last fall, the Metropolitan King County Council directed Metro to phase out its full-wrap bus advertising program due to concerns expressed by some passengers that their views were obscured and the bus interiors were dark. If the advertising program that was restricted to 25 buses – less than two percent of Metro’s fleet – is eliminated, the agency estimates it will lose $743,000 of revenue in 2008.

“We always strive to be innovative and entrepreneurial to find revenues that help keep bus fares low while increasing our service,” said King County Executive Ron Sims. “That is why I asked Metro to develop a modified wrapped-bus advertising program that still brings in critically needed revenue while addressing the concerns of our customers.”


Under the proposal, only a portion of the bus side windows would be covered. This will provide potential advertisers with enough coverage to justify the premium rates for such advertising, while preserving unobstructed, clear window space along the entire length of the bus for improved passenger visibility and comfort.

I can’t front: I love this idea! At a recent Transit Advisory Committee meeting, I talked with two people who had actually sat on a test model; they both were able to see fine. And I don’t know about you, but I want more service, stops and shelters, so I’m all about pain-free sources of revenue.

Of course, partial bus wraps won’t generate as much revenue as full bus wraps, and not just because less of the bus will be covered. There is currently only one template for wrapped buses, and it’s used by all other agencies that participate in the program. Hopefully, Metro’s model will eventually become the standard (customers in other cities would probably like to see, too), but in the meantime, advertisers who want wraps on King County buses will have to pay for custom designs.

The County Council hasn’t voted on the new proposal yet. I bet they’d like to know what you think. Would you tolerate bus wraps if you could see out the window?