Apartments ad
Looking to Rent? Light Rail Stops Here!

Presenting the first advertisement on Link light rail. It is an ad for III Marks Apartments next to Tukwila International Boulevard Station. I like the station symbol included, as it gets people thinking about locations relative to Link stations (and transit lines, in general).

Last November, Clear Channel Outdoor was awarded a contract from Sound Transit to manage all revenue-generating advertising for the agency. This likely explains the absence of ads in the first few months of service of Link. Even after November, there’s a dearth of advertising on Link. The economy obviously affects ad sales but there must be some other reasons why we haven’t seen more ads. I’ve joked that we should have some ads for the blog on the train. Is it a policy to only allow businesses along the line to advertise on Link? Neither Sound Transit nor Clear Channel Outdoor have responded to a request for more information.

83 Replies to “First Ad on Link Spotted”

  1. They should do what Bellingham does for their buses. They place primary school students’ artwork on the buses in between advertising to fill the space as well as public service announcements. Twas nice, I’d say.

    1. Metro has poetry, ST has those funny ST Express ads, TriMet has random factoids. I’d love to have the public get to display their work in a public space such as a bus or train.

      1. I guess I hadn’t noticed. Never used public transport much in Seattle and when I did on some occasions, I guess I hadn’t paid much attention to that detail. I was more or less just happy I wasn’t driving. But I rode the bus all the time in Bellingham so I was bound to notice. I loved the Save Our Salmon and Hope messages that the kids did. Hehehe, subliminal messages!

  2. I am from Japan and am a graduate student of public polciy at the UW (transportation is not really my area). In Japan, most rail system is owned and operated by private corporations. Many of them generate more than half of the revenue from non-fare enterprises, which enables them to thrive without tax subsidy at operation level. Here are some examples, and what do you guys think?

    1. Sell naming rights of stations like Safeco Field
    2. Rent extra space at stations to businesses(Link has a lot of unused space underneath the platforms at Tukwila, Sea-Tac, Mt. Baker etc stations)
    3. Purchase properties around stations prior to station construction and develop and sell them at higher price after the opening
    4. Own a subsidary focusing on TOD
    5. Install ad at stations and on tunnel walls

    I don’t think ST is in a position to do all of them for political reasons and achieve operational surplus in near future. However, with much higher ridership and efforts to utilize every inch of its space effeciently, I believe it can become a subsidy-free agency like Seattle Public Utilities in next 30-40 years.

    1. Point 3 has problems in that it puts ST in the speculation biz. Also it would be subject to manipulation by the original property owner due to all the information availble via the open meeting laws.

      1. Well, I don’t think it’s that public agencies can’t do that (some can), but that it’s a transport agency. I’m not sure that it has the delegated powers to do that. I would say that’s something that the City of Seattle might and possibly should engage in if the city doesn’t want developer-led planning. And, yeah, I just don’t think a transport agency should do that. High capital costs and if it fails, well, taxpayers will be even more hostile about public transport.

    2. I LOVE #2. It would be cool to have food vendors or even a market under Mt Baker! 1 and 5, not on my $2.2 billion dollar system!

      1. That’s what Deutsche Bahn (Germany) has done at their busier S-Bahn (think BART) rail stops. It was always nice to pick up a pretzel while waiting for my train.

      2. Street food at the stations! Coffee carts with newsstands! Great for revenue AND great for passengers. Is there a reason why this can’t be done?

      3. IIRC, it has something to with Seattle’s rather hardcore sanitation requirements for vendors to have close access to bathrooms and other facilities. Those requirements have much to do with our relative dearth of street food vendors in general compared to someplace like Portland. Stinks, if you ask me.

      4. People are working on it :) Yes, the public health restrictions are onerous, but they can be changed. If you would like to see it changed, and you are a Seattle citizen, write your Councilpeople!!

    3. I remember seeing an article about how while in Vancouver Translink made lots of money buying property around the stations and selling it to developers when the line was getting close to finished, that isn’t legal in the US. I personally wouldn’t mind more ads if they get more money into our transit system, but lots of people seem to.

      1. It would be a different story if it was a private transit company. That’s what the early streetcar companies in America did. In Asia, notably Hong Kong and Japan, rail companies have real estate divisions and run department stores, shopping centers, hotels, amusement parks, etc. that generate a lot of revenue.

      2. Not just streetcar companies — early last century, my house held the local branch of the Milwaukee St. Paul Land Company, the real estate arm of the railroad.

        When the Interurban was coming through, C.D. Hillman bought a good sized chunk of land between the heavy rail line and the Interurban and my house became the home of C.D. Hillman’s Pacific City Addition to the City of Seattle. (A bit ambitious, 30 miles from downtown, but he sold a lot of people on the idea that the Interurban would create streetcar suburbs of Seattle just like streetcars had done back east. He got all the lots platted and mostly sold in time for the decline of the Interurban and the ascendancy of private cars.)

    4. Aren’t the Slut stations named after “sponsors” i.e. Terry and Seventh Street, presented by Childrens Hospital.

      1. Yes most but not all the streetcar stops are sponsored. The Amazon HQ one at Terry Ave N and Mercer is actually gone right now–I sure hope it will be sponsored by Amazon! The sponsors are announced after the stations just as you describe. Some are actually useful information, i.e. you might not realize Group Health is at Terry Ave N and Thomas St without the sponsorship.

        You can see how it’s presented here:

        At least one of the cars also has a “sponsored by Seattle Children’s” logo on the side.

        Anyone know if the FH/CH streetcar will have sponsors?

      2. The Terry & Mercer stop is back, and permanent now. I was just walking down Terry the other day and noticed it. It’s been moved a little farther north, about midblock between Republican and Mercer. I almost didn’t notice it, because there was no signage or shelter, just a curb bulb and yellow textured strip, but then I glanced up and saw the digital next train sign attached to the new Amazon building on the west side of Terry.

        I always wondered why they called the stop “Terry & Mercer” when the original stop was at Republican.

      3. Republican was only a temporary stop until construction on the corner of Mercer and Terry was far enough advanced to safely allow the opening of the station on that corner. So it never was called Terry and Republican. I take the streetcar to work at Fred Hutchinson every morning. Hard to believe, but it does seem that fewer people are using the new stop than the old, just a few paces away. The Republican stop location did seem to make more sense for current passengers.

    5. No naming rights! I hate how SLUT stations have two names, one for the location and one for the sponsor, which are inconsistently used on the maps and announcements. Often the sponsor is not located adjacent to the station, and it aggrandizes certain businesses beyond their intrinsic importance to travellers/tourists.

    6. Here’s another idea, provide names of businesses and places around major bus, streetcar, Link, and Sounder stops, and charge businesses a small amount to have the announcement mention them.

      Ex. “Entering Beacon Hill station. transfer here to routes 36 and 60. El centro de la rasa, and BECU beacon hill branch are near this station” (If BECU opens a branch in the TOD around the station)

      You could possibly add “station sponsored by BECU” if the money is needed.

  3. Keibun, is it true in Japan that there is nothing like our “eminent domain” law? Transit agencies and other public enterprises cannot force property owner to sell their land for a public purpose?

    1. The Japanese have eminent domain, it’s just more conservative than the American version. According to Wikipedia, “The government exercises a formidable eminent domain power and can expropriate land for any public purpose as long as reasonable compensation is afforded. This power was famously used in the wake of World War II to dismantle the estates of the defunct peerage system and sell their land to farmers at very cheap rates (one historical reason for agriculture’s support of LDP governments). Narita International Airport is another well-known example of eminent domain power in Japan.”

      Again quoting Wikipedia, “Traditionally, the Japanese government would offer to relocate homeowners in regions slated for expropriation, rather than condemn their property and pay compensation as provided by law. In the case of Narita Airport, this type of cooperative expropriation did not occur: some residents went as far as using terror by threatening to burn down new homes of anyone who would voluntarily move out.”

      The Japanese system doesn’t appear to go so far as the American system in allowing for eminent domain for the benefit of private developers. In the case of Roppongi Hills, e.g., several stalwarts were given residences in the new building as compensation for having their old homes torn down. In the states, a developer on that scale would probably just get the city to condemn the properties and raze them under Kelo.

      1. The quote from Wikipedia is generally right. But this is why it is so difficult to build highway in Japan, and there are more incentives to build rail system, which is much more space-efficient.

  4. Clear Channel has the ad contact for ST?

    So when are we getting a Rush Limbaugh wrapped LINK train?

      1. @Craig

        Premiere Radio Networks Inc., a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, syndicates 90 radio programs and services to more than 5,000 radio affiliations and reaches over 190 million listeners weekly. Premiere Radio is the number one radio network in the country and features the following personalities: Rush Limbaugh…

  5. Glad to see my tax dollars are making Mark rich.

    How about this?

    An immediate tax reassessment of properties whose values were increased by proximity to rail? This way we can recoup some of the tax “investment”.

    1. John this already happens, just wait until they get their tax bill from the city.

      1. Thanks for info…glad to see Gov. on the ball!

        Taxation by increased transit value is another good way to distribute demand load…making people close to stations pay more makes sure that those there are paying for (and wanting to use) the service.

        It also gives people further away lesser rents and a tax bump that can be used to pay for the feeder lines to the main (expensive location) LINK stations.

      2. “tax increment financing”, which you’re describing and Portland uses, is unconstitutional in the state of WA. Sorry.

  6. I sure hope that ST doesn’t decide to completely sell out the Link system. After all the money we’ve had to spend on it, it would be nice to keep it clean and professional looking. It’s nice to have clean tunnel walls, unwrapped trains, and stations still called “Columbia”.

    Besides, is nothing sacred anymore? Does everything in this country have to be for sale? “The third pitch of the game brought to you buy blah blah blah.” Hell, I still call it Seahawks Stadium.

    1. As far as I’m concerned, Key Arena is still the Coliseum. Unfortunately, most people have no idea what you’re talking about if you use its proper name.

      I think the better way to do naming is to just name a prominent part of the thing. I’m OK with “Qwest Field at Seahawks Stadium,” with the brand applying specifically to the field and not the whole facility.

      That said, at least “Safeco” and “Key” lend themselves to appropriate nicknames that don’t sound like brands, e.g. “The Safe” and “The Key.”

      As far as naming on transit system goes, I’m against naming stations because that impacts usability. The station names should actually be meaningful to people who know the area.

      1. Why, yes, we can have ad-free transit systems and vending machine-free school hallways and libraries open at useful hours and Licensing counters without long lines and more…

        BUT folks have to be willing to pay a real level of taxes to actually fund such things.

        Tim Eyman-loving voters in the Puget Sound region get what they vote for.

    2. I didn’t explain enough, and my analogy of using Safeco Field brought some misunderstanding. Train operators don’t sell the full naming rights, but it would be like: Beacon Hill Station ( HQ) or Overlake Station (Microsoft HQ). Sorry for the confusion.

      1. Ah, now that’s different. As long as the main name is there, and the sponsors are located near the station, that kind of advertising actually increases the usability of the system.

      2. Em, yeah, still opposed to that. It goes a bit too far and dictates what the area should be. It think that’s a bit contrary to good planning in the sense that it places ownership of the area in the hands of companies. What about other companies that exist in the area? Or the general diversity of the area?

      3. I should also clarify. It’s one thing for the voice recording to say, “This stop for [insert attraction], [insert attraction], and [insert attraction].”

      4. I think he means that the announcements bus drivers make, like “Westlake Station, Westlake Center, Monorail, Pike Place Market, South Lake Union Streetcar, etc.” are not the same as the paid sponsorships of stations.

  7. I do support the addition of retail outlets at stations. Most of the stations don’t necessarily have the ridership density yet to support much in the way of services, but they will. Would it be possible to design the Capital Hill or UW stations to have a few retail outlets (think convenience store, etc.)? Seems like an easy way to help generate a little extra revenue.

    1. Hell, even if they didn’t generate money for ST, I would be all about stands and/or stalls at stations.

      Seattle really needs to get over it’s hangup about streetfood/streetvendors. It’s turning into a big boy city and needs to start acting like it.

      1. Seattle is getting over it. DPD and SDOT have joined forces to make it much easier to allow for street vendors. King County is really the problem, with their draconian safety laws, but DPD and SDOT are pressuring them enough that things are going to be changing this year.

  8. It’s an ST policy that we have no ads on new services during their first six months. It’s a branding thing. This goes back to the days when we were rolling out new ST Express bus services and the Board wanted the buses to run “naked” for a period so folks would associate them with ST free of ad distractions.

    As for ad restrictions – Link ads will follow the same rules as ST Express and Sounder. No ads for alcohol, tobacco, firearms, violence or ads that defame any group or person. We also don’t allow ads of a sexual nature.

    Bruce Gray

    1. Thanks for the official statement, Bruce!

      It’s great that you read and respond to these discussions!

      1. So long as they DO NOT cover the windows. That is a huge safety hazard which I hope ATU Local 587 has finally put the kabbash on!

    2. so folks would associate them with ST free of ad distractions.

      Are we that that dumb that we wouldn’t associate a bus or a light rail train with Metro or Sound Transit for a few internal ads being displayed inside them?


      Who came up with that?

      1. Yes, most people don’t know the difference between the blue and white buses and the green and yellow buses.

  9. I’ve said it a millions times. I fully support generating ad revenue. Transit agencies need all the help they can get. Glad Link is starting to get some advertising.

  10. Keibun, thanks for some good ideas. I especially like the idea of encouraging such commercial activity around-and in-stations as espresso stands, news-stands and bookstores, and hot food- basic transit civilization in most of the world. Open full system hours.

    Another possibililty: reasonably-priced paid lavatories- where ORCA cards also work. Stockholm Central Station has a beautifully-maintained pay-at-the-desk facility with showers as well as toilets. And well-kept coin-operated toilets all over the city.

    The absence of healthy human activity is in itself one of the worst security hazards of our own system- and most US transit systems and virtually every US downtown for the last forty years.

    Best thing about your suggestions is that together, they could help me overcome the commercial matter I hate worst: using space on bus windows for advertising. Would anybody like to join me in an announced boycott of every company advertised in this manner?

    Mark Dublin

    1. I don’t think the restroom idea would fly in Seattle after what happened with the city’s five public, high-tech restrooms before (even if they were pay restrooms).

      1. Then don’t do high-tech and just go with what works. We had public restrooms 90-100 years ago in Pioneer Square and Westlake Square. It seems that we’ve regressed. From HistoryLink:

        The pergola stood above a historic “comfort station” (now sealed over), known by some as the “Queen Mary of the Johns,” also built in 1909. This was indisputably the nation’s most elaborately appointed underground rest room, with white-tiled walls, terrazzo floor, brass fixtures, and marble stalls. After the facility opened in September 1909, the toilets were flushed on an average of 8,000 times per day; 15,000 times on Sundays when saloons were closed. There were 16 stalls for men and nine for women. The toilets were closed after World War II.

        There were free toilets and pay toilets, with separate entrances for men and women. In the men’s free room there were 10 toilets, five lavatories (wash basins), four urinals, and one sink. In the men’s pay room, there were six toilets that opened with a key, five lavatories, and four sets of urinals. The women’s room had nine toilets (two paid toilets opened with a key), six lavatories, and one sink. The men’s and women’s rooms each had an anteroom with oak chairs and a shoeshine stand. The men could purchase a cigar.

      2. Staffed bathrooms work. But does the law allow an entrepreneur to charge money to use them? I’ll bet there’s some stupid health law that has quashed it. Net result? No place to pee, poop or even shower.

      3. Weekend Edition had a story on this: Arizona hangs up on nature’s call. “New York outlawed pay toilets in the 1970s after it was sued for discriminating against women, who need to use a stall while men can stand. In 1990, a group of homeless people sued to insist on the right to free relief.”

        So is that why Seattle doesn’t have pay washrooms?

  11. In summary, I got negative responseto the idea of naming rights and property development. I had similar response when I introduced these ideas at a transportation policy class. These were controversial issue when introduced in Japan, but it seems that the general public is now all satisfied with the idea of focusing on the government spending on new construction, rather than spreading both on operation and construction.

    Now, when I look at Puget Sound, ST2 is nowhere enough to have strong coverage and ridership. My idea for ST3 would be not only extending the link to Everett and Tacoma but also build more lines, perhaps 2 north-south lines and 2-3 east-west lines. The construction cost would be a concern, but it is also critical to achieve operational surplus to maintain such extensive system. That’s why I think ST should everything it can to raise more revenues.

  12. Keibun,

    I really have to say that I love traveling all the Asian subway systems. Each of them have a real interactive flavor, so to speak. I’ve been on the Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tokyo, Kyoto, Taipei and Hong Kong systems in the last year. I love the fact that most have monitors everywhere, both in the station and on board the various trains, showing news and advertising. Many of the systems also have either ads you can view on the wall as the train comes to a stop at a station.

    While some of the old trains and train lines don’t have all the bells and whistles as the new trains and lines, these monitors and this advertising really makes for a lively feeling on the train. I also love the electronic boards at the platforms showing the next train arrival either via time or a little train getting closer to the station. On board, I love how they show the train traveling in various directions, the next stop, how long between stations and what side you disembark. Few systems in the US are like these systems. The Asians have it all over us when it comes to classy subway systems.

  13. Do they have standards for the design of ads? Because I wish that ads on the trains could look a little more professional than that first one…

    1. There’s nothing wrong with the ad. They have something to sell, and they have a message tuned to that.

      1. So we can either pay design review staff for ads, making the ads financially pointless, or we can let the market work it out.

  14. Hmm, I am pretty sure I posted a comment about this very ad here on this blog a couple of weeks ago… and no one noticed. I never bothered posting the picture I took of it, though, because the picture kind of sucked.

    The ad is ugly, but I sort of like that they used the official icon for the station where the apartments apparently are located. (Tukwila.)

  15. Even after November, there’s a dearth of advertising on Link.

    Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! I know the answer why (even though that’s not exactly a question):

    Because the transit agencies here are completely asleep at the wheel when it comes to advertising their vehicles. Most ads are for non-profit agencies. Save the Bing ads from Microsoft in the past year, they’ve not attracted any well known businesses, and clearly seem incapable of using advertising as means to pay the bills. Maybe Clear Channel can change things.

    1. What evidence do you have that the transit agencies themselves have any part in the lack of ads? You may have noticed that advertising is down citywide…

    2. There were also all the HTC wraps that around a few weeks ago. The first time I saw them I thought the Metro buses had been swapped for ST for some reason.

Comments are closed.