In an effort to sustain transit operations without imposing a fee on locals and visitors, the Summit Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday amended its land use and development code to permit advertising on the exterior of county-owned and -leased transit vehicles.
Lindsay Hirsch, Summit County planning manager, said during a pre-meeting workshop the advertising could generate an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 in additional annual revenue for the Summit Stage free bus system. The Stage’s operating annual budget is about $9 million.
An 11-member Countywide Planning Commission debated the proposed code amendment on Nov. 4, Hirsch said. Although the commission seemed interested in expanding the proposed amendment to all county service vehicles, such as plows and sheriff’s office cruisers, Hirsch opted to keep the conversation focused on the county’s public transit fleet. The reason was to avoid another “Celestial Seasonings-type” snafu, she said.
A couple of years ago, Celestial Seasonings tea company execs approached Summit County about an advertising partnership, the result of which was a Summit Stage bus being draped in a full wrap advertisement. It was not well received by the community, Hirsch said.
“It was an interesting meeting for me because I got opinions from both ends of the spectrum,” Hirsch said. “The majority want to be open minded and think if we can get some extra revenue that would be a good thing, but they also want to be conservative. They don’t want Summit Stage to turn into (the Regional Transportation District in) Denver and go bumper to bumper with this stuff.”
Thomas Davidson, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, agreed, saying he preferred the smaller, banner-style advertisements recommended by the planning commission.
“I think we just have to be super, super careful, so we don’t end up with another Celestial Seasonings situation,” he said.
The amendment to allow advertising on the exterior of Summit Stage buses was approved unanimously Tuesday afternoon during the commission’s regularly scheduled meeting. Residents and visitors can expect to see advertisements on the sides of Stage buses as early as next month.
“We’re in the process of executing a contract with Street Media Group in Fort Collins,” said Summit County transit director Jim Andrew following the amendment’s approval. “We’ve asked them to try to begin Dec. 1, but it probably won’t be until January (2014) that people begin to notice the new ads.”