Watch your step

There are many good reasons to support the county transit agency’s decision to turn over bus-stop shelter management to a private company. When it negotiates the contract, however, it needs to drive a hard bargain—and the Chico City Council should be an active player.

The proposal is that the company will put up new bus-stop shelters and maintain them and the existing shelters in return for the right to sell advertising on them. The upside is that the county will have far more sheltered bus stops, which will be good for public transit. But as this photograph from an outdoor-advertising company suggests, some ads could be a little too much for Chico.

To make the deal work, the cities and the transit agency will have to come up with appropriate guidelines for the type and placement of advertising. They should also insist that some shelters along scenic routes—The Esplanade comes to mind—should have no advertising or, at most, decorous public-service ads.

The local agencies need to be hard-headed in negotiating the contract. Having more bus shelters is a plus, but only if they are kept clean, are well-maintained and conform to community values. And the contract should include a clause that allows for an eventual profit-sharing agreement once the company has recovered its initial investment and maintenance costs.