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Metro buses and trains in St. Louis will lose their exterior ads

Passengers board a bus on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at St. Louis' MetroLink’s Grand Station.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Passengers board a bus in January 2022 at St. Louis' MetroLink’s Grand Station.

The brightly colored promotions advertising lawyers, schools and businesses on the outside of public buses in the St. Louis area are a thing of the past. The Bi-State Development Agency, which operates Metro transportation, began the removal process this week.

Advertisements will still be displayed inside. The change will result in a loss of revenue for Bi-State Development. President and CEO Taulby Roach said the pivot will be made in favor of community members.

“There was a couple of those fully wrapped buses that were in St. Clair County, and quite frankly, some residents and leadership, they just didn't like them,” Roach said. “It's kind of jarring to see a 40-foot bus wrapped in pink.”

One in four vehicles had advertising displayed on the outside, 144 displays at the company’s final count. The agency projected $1.9 million in advertising revenue in 2023, according to That's $200,000 more than its target.

The transition away from these ads began in Illinois. Bi-State Development began removing exterior advertisements on public transit in St. Clair County two years ago.

The organization has operated within a less than 1.5% growth budget for the past five years. Roach said that enables it to respond to community concerns.

“We are a financially stable organization, and one that shows good stewardship with public money. And within that stewardship gives us the opportunities to respond to the community and establish ourselves, just like the community does, as a trustworthy brand,” Roach said. “I think really, what this is is us trying to reflect the values of the community.”

As vehicles are taken out of service for maintenance, advertisements will be removed and exterior displays replaced with a new color scheme.

“It will actually occur over a couple of years,” Roach said. “It does take us a while to make the change, but we're certainly in the midst of it.”

Vector Media is no longer selling outside ads for the buses and trains, but will continue to sell the interior ads, according to a spokesperson for Bi-State.

There won’t be additional space made to advertise within the vehicles. The internal ads are projected to generate $525,000 annually, a fraction of the previous profit. The company’s operating costs surpass $370 million annually. The financial aspect, Roach says, is not the only concern.

“There's all kinds of offsets and complications that are important, but what's really important to remember about public transit is our end product. It’s service. It's not profit,” Roach said.

Lauren Brennecke is a senior studying journalism and media studies at Webster University. She is a 2023-24 Newsroom Intern at St. Louis Public Radio.