Billboards on BART property could generate up to $10 million a year for the agency, but it’s unknown where the massive advertising signs would be allowed in the region.
The advertising firm Allvision has approached BART about adding billboards to the agency’s right-of-way property, which includes areas along highways, maintenance yards, and transit stations.
According to the firms’ proposal, billboards could generate $5 million to $10 million annually in net revenue if the transit agency were to add 20 digital structures and 40 traditional signs to its property. The additional billboards would greatly increase the agency’s advertising revenues, which currently provide $8 million a year for BART.
On Thursday, the BART board will discuss the Allvision proposal. If the board indicates a willingness to move forward with the plan, then BART employees will scout out potential sites, agency spokeswoman Luna Salaver said.
However, local planning ordinances prevent billboards from being erected at many locales along BART’s right-of-way. San Francisco has a long-standing ban of billboards above BART’s train tracks, and in 2002, a new ordinance was approved barring any new large-scale signs in The City. Oakland also has a billboard ban, although its restrictions have eased in recent years.
BART Director Lynette Sweet said there might be some small cities in the region that would be interested in allowing billboards if they receive a cut of the ad revenue. She said billboards aren’t a bad idea, as long as they raise money and there is a local appetite for them.
However, BART employees have not yet identified or suggested any potential billboard sites, Sweet said.
The transit agency is exempt from some local planning ordinances, but only when it comes to transit uses, said Tom Radulovich, another BART director. He doesn’t think the exemption would apply to billboards.
“We could probably plunk these down on a few pieces of BART property, but it would irritate our customers and infuriate other passersby,” said Radulovich.
“Some local cites might be interested in this, but we’d have to split the revenue with them, which probably makes any funding projections from this plan unrealistic.”
And billboard construction often invites lawsuits, noted BART Director Robert Raburn, who said the agency would probably have to shell out plenty of money in attorneys’ fees if it allowed the signs.
“It’s a bad idea,” said Raburn. “It will be a green light for local blight.”
Allvision officials did not return a call seeking comment.
$8.09 million: Current annual BART revenue from advertising
$5 million to $10 million: Revenue that potentially could be generated under billboard proposal
$617.5 million: Total BART budget
Source: Allvision, BART