The new bus shelters and benches being installed by Creative Outdoor Advertising got off to a rocky start. They were late arriving and fell short of some transit users’ expectations.
But the City has five- and 10-year contracts with COA and is determined to give the company a fair shake once all the initial bugs are worked out.
City transportation planner Erin Felker said Monday she understands some people don’t like the changes. She just wants them to give the new transit shelters and benches a chance.
“From the City’s perspective, the service provided – they’re not failing enough that we’re willing to pull the plug. We want to work with them,” she said.
The “street furniture,” as COA calls it, was late arriving because they won a lot of contracts this year and then had issues with meeting all the demands.
So far, nine out of 20 shelters are in place in Kamloops as well as 98 of 135 bus benches. (Shelters and benches at Thompson Rivers University, Aberdeen Mall and the exchanges on Lansdowne and Sydney are not included in the contract.)
Prince George, which has a contract with COA for benches only, and Pattison for shelters, has a similar late start.
David Bradshaw, in charge of Prince George’s transit and projects, said his city signed with COA this spring and there are still benches not installed yet. But he hasn’t had complaints about the ones that are in place.
Prince George has been with Pattison for shelters for years; another contractor provided benches, but they were metal and rusted.
“We haven’t had much reaction so far. We think people have noticed. We hope they’ll fare a little better in the weather here,” he said.
Felker said Kamloops had shelter contracts with Pattison for 20 years, and Media Source for benches.
The shelters were holding up well, but the benches were not, she said.
“They looked terrible. They were detracting from our streetscapes.”
The companies provided the equipment and maintenance, and gave the City a certain amount of ad revenue — that’s the way all the deals have worked — of about $40,000 a year, shelters and benches combined.
B.C. Transit also sells bus shelters, which the City looked at buying, but the bill was $350,000 (that’s the City’s portion, cost-shared with B.C. Transit) and didn’t include maintenance.
City administration directed Felker’s department to put out a request for proposals. There were three responses: Pattison offered shelters, another company put forward its benches, and COA proposed its benches, or benches and shelters.
“COA had a far better proposal for shelters. We asked for tons of criteria,” she said.
“They have an online, 24/7 maintenance request line. Their sites are all barcode scanned and located. They have an efficient, high-tech system.”
The financial return to the City was similar with COA and Pattison.
The deal with COA is 10 years for the shelters and five years for the benches. Both options are renewable in five-year extensions up to 20 years. COA, an Ontario-based company, has promised to cut weeds, shovel snow and remove graffiti at the bus shelters.
“For a new company, the capital investment is huge if they want in. That’s why we went with a 10-year shelter agreement to get some certainty behind it,” said Felker.