Making my way into Union Station on the Flatiron Flyer, I was intrigued by the name Outdoor Promotions that sits atop the bus shelter at the Park Avenue West and Wewatta Street stop. Turns out this company is a big deal. Here’s a map demonstrating the scale of OP’s operations in the Denver metro area, which I pulled from their website.

The scale of this responsibility might surprise some but partnerships between municipal governments and private vendors for the provision of public services is not a new thing, or that unusual.

Research from a report completed as part of the DenverMoves: Transit plan indicates that, “Stops with shelters maintained by RTD represent less than 5% of the over 3,000 bus stops in Denver. There are additional stops with shelters installed and maintained through a City of Denver advertising contract, but a comprehensive inventory of stops with these additional shelters is not available”. I should hope that such an inventory does exist. (By the way, I’m not the first to leverage this information included in the aforementioned report, Streetsblog Denver made it a point to bring this up back in early 2017.)

If you were to overlay the Outdoor Promotions map on top of the DenverMoves: Transit map from the February 2017 report, I think it’s fair to say that you’ve got an approximation of whose responsibility it is to maintain the overwhelming majority of street-side bus stops with a shelter in the RTD system, including some downtown. So, the next time you’re at a bus stop and pondering its amenities (or lack thereof), take a look to see if Outdoor Promotions, the “leading provider of transit amenity services in the Denver… metropolitan market[s]” is partly responsible for your transit experience.

There’s value in knowing that, not in some but most cases, bus routes with stops that include shelters are maintained by someone other than the city (by the way, another actor in the transit amenity space is business improvement districts, or BIDs). The mechanism for allowing private companies to install streetscape furniture—so not just shelters, but benches too—at RTD stops is the Transit Amenity Program (TAP), which has its own rules and regulations. Knowing where to find this information helps us all to be aware of formal ways to make requests for a better transit experience. More on TAP in a future post.