Mayor Daley Hopes Plan Will Help Fleets Offset Fuel Costs

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NEW YORK ( -- Windy City cab drivers will get a cut of outdoor advertising revenue, if Mayor Richard M. Daley gets his wish.

Photo: AP
Chicago may soon allow taxi-top ads like New York City does on its 12,778 yellow cabs.
The mayor unveiled a plan this week that will allow the city’s fleets of 6,900 taxicabs to display ads on rooftops and side-panel doors. The hope is that allowing such advertising will generate additional revenue that the taxi industry will invest in technological advancements, such as fuel-efficient hybrid and wheelchair-accessible cars.

In return, fleet owners would keep 65% of the revenue, giving the rest to drivers. For drivers, the additional revenue will help offset rising fuel costs. It’s expected a single cab would take in about $400 a month in ad revenue.

The proposed ordinance will now move to the Transportation Committee for a hearing, and then put to a full City Council vote. It could be several months before the proposal passes.

Allowing Chicago taxicabs to display advertising is considered a coup for the out-of-home advertising industry. New York City has turned advertising on its 12,778 taxis into a booming multimillion-dollar business, incorporating new technologies such as digital tickers and text-messaging capabilities. According to Elena Becker, New York City’s director-media solutions, the Big Apple’s New York’s taxi-top advertising could potentially reap $19.5 million gross annual revenue with 100% occupancy at rate card prices.

And like New York, Chicago taxis are allowed to cruise for fares, which vastly increases their potential reach.

Chicago banned advertising on taxi exteriors some 25 years ago. Three years ago the city began allowing taxicabs to advertise on their interiors. Some cab companies have done so through such tactics as touch-screen monitors and receipt advertising.

Cascio Communications, a Chicago company that sells transit advertising on Continental Airport Express shuttles, is believed to have contracts with several large taxi operators, amounting to about half the cabs in the city.

New York, meanwhile, has issued an RFP for a program to put rich content on flat-panel screens in the back seats of its taxis. The program is primarily information-content-driven, but would be ad-supported.

Chicago is one of the few remaining top markets to approve taxi tops. The medium is generally considered strong in cities that allow cabs to cruise for fares, such as New York, Boston and Las Vegas but weak in cities like Dallas, Los Angeles and Atlanta where cabs must be dispatched.

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