Shelters, with ads, going up at bus stops

LAWRENCEVILLE - Relief is on the way for local transit riders who must brave the elements to catch one of Gwinnett County's maroon buses.

An Atlanta company chosen by county officials will begin erecting shelters at dozens of bus stops in about two months, said Gwinnett Transit Director Tim Collins.

In exchange for putting the shelters up and keeping them clean, American Transit Display Systems will get to adorn the structures with advertisements.

The deal was approved by Gwinnett County commissioners in 2004.

"It's good because we realize this time of year there are folks that have to stand out in the elements and wait for a bus, and hopefully this will provide them with a little bit of shelter to make that a better experience for them," Collins said.

The county's roughly 700 local stops are now marked solely with a sign, and riders must stand in the wind and rain while waiting for a bus to arrive.

About 50 of the most heavily used stops have been picked by the county Transportation Department to receive a shelter, including ones along Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Buford Highway and Old Norcross Road, Collins said.

The 5-by-10-foot shelters will be enclosed by heavy mesh on three sides with a bench inside, Collins said.

The arrangement will cost the county nothing, Collins said, and the county could actually make some money.

Its contract with American Transit Display Systems calls for it to get 12 percent of the gross revenue generated by the company's sale of ad space on the bus shelters.

The county will have no say in what kind of ads go on the shelters that will be black in color and bear the Gwinnett Transit logo, Collins said. The company, however, puts its own restrictions on ad content.

The company will not include tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, any signs depicting illegal acts or violence against people or animals, statements or words describing illicit sexual acts or organs, nudity or political speech.

So far the four-year-old transit system only has shelters at its three Express stops where commuters catch rush-hour buses to and from Atlanta, and at its local route hub near Gwinnett Place Mall.

A citizens board that advises county officials on transit system has looked into letting companies pay to put ads on Gwinnett buses.

"I think we need to investigate it for the taxpayers," said transit board chairman Art Sheldon.

"It would bring additional income into the system and help support it, which of course would result in less money coming out of the (county budget" to support the system.

As for the shelters, their importance goes beyond revenue, Sheldon said.

"Our riders definitely need a little protection out there," he said.