Ads for alcohol coming to Metro

WASHINGTON — Next to ads for doctors, townhomes or food, Metro rail and bus riders will soon see ads for alcohol across the system.

The Metro Board voted 7-1 on Thursday to allow the ads, with only Board Chairman Mort Downey opposed. He had supported the change in committee, which Metro staff project will bring in about $5 million in additional advertising revenues over the next several years.

Opponents of the plan who spoke at the meeting Thursday, including former Maryland Del. Bill Bronrott, cited research that they say shows the negative impact of alcohol advertising on underage drinking and related decisions.

They argued that increased alcohol advertising leads to heavier underage drinking and other issues.

“The fact is, the states and local jurisdictions in our region are already far short of resources to adequately address the multitude of health and safety consequences of alcohol abuse and dependence — problems that many of us do not typically hear about until it’s reported on the 11 o’clock news, in our local newspapers or when there’s a knock on the door in the middle of the night — when it’s too late,” Bronrott told the board.

“These include vehicle crashes, alcohol poisoning, dropping out of school, lost wages, domestic violence, street violence, rape, homicides, homelessness, suicides, stillbirths, and increased risks of cancer, heart disease and stroke,” he said.

The D.C. Department of Transportation already accepts alcohol ads on bus shelters, but Maryland’s transit systems and Fairfax Connector in Virginia do not.

Maryland Metro Board Member Michael Goldman said the Maryland policy, which is based on an executive order, could limit where Metro could actually place the alcohol ads, but still voted for the new policy.

Metro staff plan to come back to the board with more specifics on where the ads could be placed.

In a separate vote, the board also extended Metro’s ban on issue-oriented advertising, which is projected to have cut about $1.6 million from overall advertising revenue since the ban was enacted in May. The ban covers political, religious and advocacy ads.

In addition, the board voted to add new forms of advertising for the Metro system. That includes railcars fully-wrapped on the outside or inside with ads, new digital advertising panels and other ads on glass or metal surfaces in train stations or at bus stops.

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