November 1, 2018
For immediate release
Chapel Hill: The Washington, DC Metro bus system has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet for subjecting riders to irritating 15-second ads. Soon, Metro rail riders will hear ads as well.
CommuterAds, the Dayton, Ohio-based company which provides the ads, proclaims that “millions of people use transit daily. We’ve developed the most effective way to reach them.” They also boast that “we monetize transit agencies and reach millions of consumers,” as they have “the world’s only GPS place-based media that allows local business to reach captive riders through audio + digital text scroll messaging onboard public transit.” The company states that “we connect businesses with transit companies, who connect with your customers.”
Washington, DC is only the latest metropolitan transit authority to welcome “onboard audio ads.” CommuterAds is also in Champaign, Illinois; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Columbus; Dayton; Des Moines; Kansas City; Lexington, Kentucky; Milwaukee; San Bernadino; Tampa; Atlanta; and Toledo.
The audio ads can be geo-targeted, meaning “the recording can trigger when the bus passes a certain store or business.” For example, if the bus passes a Starbucks store, passengers could be subjected to ads about their morning coffee deals.
NPR reports that this geo-targeted technology has even been used by personal injury lawyers to send text messages to people waiting in Philadelphia emergency rooms.
Russ Gottesman, founder of CommuterAds, “got the idea for the business while taking a train home after a Chicago White Sox game. Realizing he was packed in with thousands of hungry fans, he saw an opportunity for restaurants along the route. ‘When they call out the Chinatown stop, why not have an advertisement for the dim sum?’”
To answer Gottesman’s question: because it’s annoying. Because a bus rider is in a captive space. Because it represents another step in the over-commercialization of public space. Because it makes unnecessary noise.
A DC Metro bus rider, Alan Shan, got off a Route 31 bus carrying bags of groceries. He complained that he constantly sees ads on television, he constantly hears ads on the radio, and now he gets to constantly hear ads on the bus. “When I’m on the bus, I want to be in my head,” he said.
Ted Rueter, the director of Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet, commented that “audio ads on buses and subways are part of the continuing assault on peace and quiet. At gas station pumps, consumers are subjected to noise from a television screen. At theaters, movie-goers are subjected to thunderously loud ads and previews. At doctors’ waiting rooms, patients are subjected to noise from television sets. America’s public spaces continue to be taken over by noise. Instead, the nation should respect the quiet. The decision of the Washington, DC metro bus authority to inflict audio ads on their riders is ruly regrettable.”
Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet is a national citizens’ organization devoted to noise reduction. The DC Metro system was also the “winner” of the Noisy Dozen award in April 2013.