T to give alcohol ads a try, ending a five-year ban
For the first time in more than five years the MBTA will accept alcohol advertising at some stations after its governing board on Monday approved a long-contested change to the transit agency’s policy.
With revenues running below projections for the fiscal year, the T estimates it could collect an additional $2.5 million from the sales of those ads. But, there will be some restrictions on where the ads can run: not near schools or community centers or in rail stations where more than 10 percent of passengers use student passes. Among those stations are JFK/UMass, Roxbury Crossing, and Forest Hills.
The T will begin with a test run of ads between December and mid-March. It will then evaluate the program before potentially expanding to selling ads that wrap around trains in April.
The approval comes a week after the board hit a 2-2 impasse on the issue, with director Brian Shortsleeve, a T general manager, absent from that meeting. He was present Monday and provided the decisive vote in favor of allowing the ads. Shortsleeve has frequently stressed that the T must balance its budget.
Alcohol ads were banned in 2012, with officials citing the exposure to youth as the main reason. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a recovering alcoholic and at the time a state representative, was among the advocates calling for the ban. His administration has also petitioned the T not to reinstate the ads as the issue resurfaced in recent years.
The mayor’s office has not returned a request for comment, but a city public health official testified against the ads at the T board’s meeting last week.
Transit officials also note the city of Boston owns some of the shelters at T bus stops, which sometimes display alcohol ads. The mayor’s office said this is because Walsh inherited a long-term contract with the company that places advertisements on city property, and the city may move to ban such ads in the next round of contracts.