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State College: Experiment with Ads on CATA Buses Begins Tuesday

by on July 05, 2011 12:50 PM

The Centre Area Transportation Authority launched a yearlong experiment with advertisements on the outside of its buses Tuesday, but don't expect to see a motorized billboard rolling through downtown State College anytime soon.

For one thing, ads will be limited to the tail section of CATA's buses.

For another, as of Tuesday morning, CATA had yet to sell an external ad.

"In the board meeting in February, we officially decided to go forward with it," CATA Marketing Manager Jacqueline Sheader told on Tuesday. "We just made our advertising rate sheet public today."

The start of the ads-on-buses experiment coincides with the beginning of CATA's fiscal year on July 1. The advertising program is designed to bolster revenue as state and federal transportation funding is dramatically shrinking.

"We're hoping to make about $30,000 in the first year," Sheader said.

The initial response has been more of curiosity than commitment.

"We've had about a dozen businesses contact us requesting information," Sheader said, "but we haven't sold any ads yet."

When they do, those ads will be placed in the 68-inch-wide-by-28-inch-tall spaces between the taillights of the 35-foot- and 40-foot-long buses. CATA officials expect the first ads to appear around Aug. 1

"The incorporation of exterior bus advertising into our overall advertising program, which also includes interior and Ride Guide advertising, was a decision that was not taken lightly," Sheader said in a statement released earlier Tuesday. "When weighing the pros and cons of taking on such a program, and given the current financial situation that we face as a result of recent state and federal funding losses, it made sense for CATA to test the demand for such a program and the potential revenue gains that exterior bus advertising can provide."

CATA General Manager Hugh Mose called the decision to sell exterior bus advertising "a tough call."

"In my view using transit buses as rolling billboards is not a very comfortable fit in a community that has prohibited new outdoor advertising for decades," he said in the CATA statement released Tuesday. "However, in this era of reduced federal and state spending, we ultimately decided that trying paid ads on the backs of the buses was a better option than cutting even more of our services."

According to the CATA rate sheet, placing one ad on one 35-foot bus for three months will cost $750. Rates increase proportionally to the cost of placing ads on 10 of CATA's 40-foot buses for 12 months: $28,080.

Advertising with images unsuitable for young people, for alcohol or tobacco products, relating to a political candidate or issue, or pertaining to religious institutions or views or to human reproduction will not be accepted, according to the CATA advertising policy accompanying the rate sheet.

When the trial is completed next spring, CATA officials will assess whether "additional revenues generated are sufficient to offset any issues that emerge," according to the released statement.

At that time, CATA officials will determine if the program will be continued and whether "other exterior bus advertising opportunities" – full bus advertising wraps – might be incorporated into the program and whether the program will employ an outside vendor.

"Right now, everything is being done in-house," Sheader told "This is all new to us. This is an adventure."

Earlier coverage

Rich Kerstetter is managing editor of Follow him on Twitter at or get news updates via Facebook at Rich can be reached at [email protected] or at (814) 238-6201 Ext. 135.
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