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City to seek vendors to manage bus ads

Thursday, August 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Vendors' proposals for managing advertising on city buses should begin to land on city officials' desks within the next several weeks. Although the Columbia City Council approved issuing a request for proposals Monday night, it could be several months before residents start to see the ads.

City Transportation Manager Ken Koopmans said that research on bus advertising elsewhere produced a wide range of estimates on how much revenue the city might expect.

“The only way to really know was to do an RFP and see what looked promising,” Koopmans said. “We needed to make them write down the figures, which we will analyze, and if they look good then we’ll take them to the council.”

Public Works Department spokeswoman Jill Stedem said the decision has been a long time coming.

“This has not been an easy task,” she said. “Advertising on buses is an issue that goes back many, many years.”

The council discussed the topic in 2004 and 2007 but didn’t proceed with it, according to a previous Missourian report.

Monday’s decision came after the council’s June 15 vote to proceed with a request for proposals to begin the long process of implementing advertising on city buses. In the past, this topic has been discussed, debated and discarded without any decisions being made, Stedem said. There have been strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

After a back-and-forth discussion at Monday’s meeting, however, the proposal finally jumped its initial hurdle. Contractors now will be able to submit proposals detailing their prices, estimated costs and preferred advertising formats.

Applicants will have 30 to 45 days to submit proposals. If everything goes smoothly, Stedem said, a contract could be reached as soon as December, with advertisements on buses appearing early next year.

There are no definite plans for what to do with any money the city makes from the ads, but Stedem said that because the bus and paratransit systems receive federal money, revenue earned from bus advertising are required to stay within its budget.

Restrictions on ads regarding politics, religion, alcohol, tobacco, medical and legal counsel are already in place, in accordance with the Columbia Transit Advertising Policy.


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