Port Authority to sell audio ads

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Port Authority has found a new use for its buses' on-board audio and GPS systems.

On Sunday, the public transportation agency began a gradual introduction of 15-second, in-transit audio advertisements. The authority introduced the audio ads pilot program in an effort to increase revenue without increasing fares, Port Authority spokeswoman Heather Pharo said.

The technology uses the existing audio and GPS infrastructure of the buses to play specific ads when the buses stop at certain locations.

Megabus, a nationwide bus service, and South Side Jewelers, a Pittsburgh jewelry store, are the first two businesses to purchase audio ad space in the Allegheny County bus system, Ms. Pharo said.

Megabus ads are scheduled to play at the bus stops at Liberty Avenue at Wood Street, Fifth Avenue at Smithfield Street, Fifth Avenue at Atwood Street and Forbes Avenue at Murray Avenue. The South Side Jewelers ad is scheduled to play at the South 18th Street at East Carson Street bus stop.

At the conclusion of the pilot program, the Port Authority intends to sell audio ads at 11 bus stops.

For Downtown stops, businesses pay around $1,300 a month for a print ad, and for stops that see less traffic in the Lawrenceville, Oakland and South Side neighborhoods, advertisers pay $250 a month. A print ad that covers one side of a bus costs $1,250 a month, and an ad that covers an entire bus costs $2,975 a month. The cost of the audio ads is comparable to that of print ads; all ads are purchased on a quarterly basis.

Behind the ads is Ohio-based Commuter Advertising, a company that creates, manages and sells audio ads to play inside transit vehicles. Commuter Advertising also works with transit agencies in Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla.; Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo, Ohio; Rockland County, N.Y.; and Kansas City and Chicago.

Commuter Advertising's ads generally play at 8 to 20 percent of bus stops in a market.

"[People] are obviously noticing it," Ms. Pharo said. "It sticks out, and it's something different."

According to Ms. Pharo, who has been monitoring riders' responses on Twitter, the feedback is coming in slowly, and it's too soon to determine how well-received the ads will be.

Audio advertising is just one of a few proposed solutions to Port Authority's financial problems. The agency is also looking into advertising on its website and making better use of unused space on busways.

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Antoine Allen: aallen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1723.


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