Public transit is ready for some screen time.
Advancements in mobile data delivery has opened a substantial opportunity for transit agencies to improve the overall transit experience, attract riders, and create a new revenue stream to help supplement operations, improve service to core constituents, and support area business.
It’s no secret that revenue and funding represent two persistent issues for transit agencies across the country. Ridership is down in most major cities and fares are on the rise. Mass transit operators are caught in a difficult position. They know the demographics of their riders skew toward lower income households with 65.7 percent earning under 50,000 per year. Rising costs seem at odds with an industry whose primary users are those of limited financial means.
Modern intelligent transit systems (ITS) help optimize operations and efficiency of mass transportation operations. They can streamline routes. Data collected from these systems can help identify obsolete stops, save on fuel expenses, and identify passenger behavior. While these systems can help skinny up the bottom line, they don’t provide a new pathway to increased revenue.
For that, you need advertising.
The placement of ads on mass transit vehicles isn’t a new concept. We’re all familiar with big printed signs plastered on the sides of the local bus, or larger-than-life posters displayed at stops. Print is very 20th century, and our society is very high-tech—and very connected.
That’s where on-board and at-station infotainment systems come into play.
Infotainment provides a multimedia platform that delivers information to travelers via existing or new-installs of high-definition digital displays. The implementation of an infotainment system can help agencies leverage captive “eyeballs” in ways that improve the rider experience—and can generate a potentially huge revenue stream.
For example, the Metro in Washington, D.C. will earn over $20 million in advertising revenue this year. Its high definition displays outperform its static, printed ads by 400% (Klein, 2017).
In the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, Metro Transit operations see 65 percent of its revenue come from just 38 displays at two stations (Klein, 2017).
Digital displays mean more inventory
The presence of digital displays provides greater inventory than traditional static, printed placards. This means that more ads are be sold on vehicles and transit stations, which translates into a greater opportunity for higher advertising revenue. Leverage existing on-board GPS-features to trigger ads that run at specific locations or times. Clearly an ad that runs at the same time a the bus passes next to a participating store or restaurant represents a significant value to the advertiser.
The size of a transit agency is of little concern. Even small, five- to 10-bus operations can benefit from incorporating these systems on their vehicles.
A common concern is bandwidth; large transit agencies have larger budgets and devote resources to selling space on their vehicles. Smaller agencies however, have minimal staffing with fewer resources to dedicate to advertising sales.
“Partnerships are extremely important, especially for the smaller agencies,” adds Maglio. “Many billboard companies such as Comcast or Lamar are ideal candidates to sell into your available inventory, as will local advertising agencies. Making these places aware of the existence of these systems makes generating revenue easier.”
Infotainment systems can inject critical new funding into any transit operation while increasing brand value and improving the overall ridership experience. “It certainly makes for a more enjoyable ride and affords the transit agencies the resources to make significant investments into other areas of their operations,” concludes Maglio.
Boca Raton, FL-based ETA Transit Systems provides complete intelligent transit systems, including infotainment solutions. For sales and information, please call 800-382-0917 or visit etatransit.com
 (Klein, 2017)
 (American Public Transportation Association, 2007)