Friday, May 28, 2010

Official Translink email to V-TARP

official Translink email to V-TARP
Dear jerm IX and Vegas,

My name is ------- ---------, and I am the Manager of Customer Services and Marketing at TransLink. And as you may have already guessed, I’m writing to you in regards to the Vancouver Transit Ad Reclamation Project (V-TARP), your project to install artworks in the spaces used for advertising on our transit system.

To be sure, discussions about public space, its intersections with private interests, and its obligations to serve the community are very important. It’s something we think about at TransLink every day, as much of our work in planning and operating our transit system brings these issues of public space to the forefront.

However, we at TransLink have a limited budget with which to serve the people of this region. As residents balk at supporting transit through higher taxes, fares, or other fees, advertising from private companies provides an additional source of revenue that helps support our system.

So while the issues you raise in V-TARP are important, your project is sadly affecting a key funding source to make its point. By taking over our ad space and posting works that criticize our ads, V-TARP is creating a negative impact on TransLink’s relationship with advertisers, which is starting to cost our system in revenue. As such, we would like to ask if you could bring V-TARP to a close and refrain from posting further works on our advertising spaces.

Thus far, our transit advertising agency LAMAR has spent over $3,000 in labour charges to remove the V-TARP pieces. As well, a number of our larger advertisers have called LAMAR with concerns about the V-TARP projects. If the advertising environment becomes inhospitable, these accounts may cancel their contracts with us. Finally, if there are ad campaigns have been booked with LAMAR but are then cancelled before completion, TransLink is on the hook for the costs of that campaign. In the past, pulled campaigns have cost us $10,000-$20,000 in fees.

We do recognize the value of art to our system and our community, however, and if there is a way to work together in a way that does not impact our revenue sources, we would be happy to do it. For example, we are trying to expand our Poetry in Transit campaign beyond its current scope, into an Art on Transit program. We would love to work with you and other artists to build something that supports and enhances the public spaces that we all value.

Contact me if you would like to discuss the above opportunity further.


------ --------

i have responded briefly to this email regarding the possibility of working with Translink on a legitimate 'Art in Transit' project. I also requested clarification on the point made that it has allegedly cost $3000 to remove thirty-some pieces of cardstock that are merely resting in empty adspaces.
I find this claim to be ridiculously unbelievable.

I would however like some input from the global community before i move forward. so what do you think?


  1. That some expensive cardstock removal service. I mean, putting your finger underneath some paper is soooooooo much hard and tedious work. Cardstock removal = serious business!

  2. This point has probably been touched on in the Flickr comments, but I can't imagine a legitimate 'Art in Transit' allowing for any kind of poignant commentary as currently voiced by the installations. Either Translink, or the advertising agency, will object. Well, for sure the ad agency will object. They don't want competition in any form. No doubt they would argue existing messages as "Unfair business practice", or "Confusing" the intent of their client's ads.

    Despite that negative outlook: I would definitely prefer local art breaking through the glut of advertising. In addition, it shouldn't have to be pushed through the same fee structure since it is non-commercial.

    There's a larger discussion here, and the root of the issue is tied to publicly-funded private companies.

  3. You will never get them to do a "legitimate Art in Transit project", I say you continue to do your work and let them suffer. They shouldn't have started a transit company in the first place if they had to depend on Ad's to make money. They are selling transportation not cheese burgers.

    So I say this again, resist them at any cost.

  4. Knowing TransLink, they most definitely will raise fares, and possibly say it's because of campaigns like yours. The fact is though, that they raise fares extremely regularly and make up all sorts of reasons that usually target transit users (like "vandals," "Free-Line" riders, etc.), when there are numerous examples of transit systems that cost much less than ours and-- PDX comes to mind- have no advertising and even a large free zone. TransLink is a private company with unelected officials making obscene amounts of money, and getting away with blaming the system users for all its downfalls.
    But, uh, back to the point. I wouldn't trust TransLink/Lamar to encourage any even remotely radical art forms, and I think we should resist their regulation and guilt games as much as possible.

  5. "So while the issues you raise in V-TARP are important, your project is sadly affecting a key funding source to make its point."

    Obviously, if you don't have money, you don't have a point. Get out of my office.

    I like how thepiratebay posts their own legal threats that they receive - or used to, haven't checked in long while. And their responses, they were always killer.

  6. I agree with many posters about the validity of any "Art" in Transit. Any art selected for public display on a bus or skytrain will fall far short of provoking any semblance of thought or emotion to say the least. I also agree that private corporate advertisements in public spaces encroaches on the rights of individuals to enjoy those public spaces.


    Translink does make a good point in that, as sick as it is being visually bombarded by Koodos ads on your way to and from work, translink needs the revenue from those ads in order to stay in business. Unlike other transit systems in other cities, like Portland (TriMet only collects 21% of its revenue from passengers, the rest comes from uncle sam), Translink does not get the subsidies from municipal, provincial, or federal governments that it needs in order to pay for its expenses (let alone expand its services). Consider the Seabus for example. Translink owns 3 Seabuses, but can only afford to run 2. They've just built the RAV line, but haven't paid for it. On top of this, Translink is also responsible for road and bridge construction (Golden Ears bridge, new Port Mann bridge, Patella, etc) which is why they have a larger budget than TriMet.

    Public Transit in Vancouver is almost laughable when compared to other cities. Yet NOBODY wants to fit the bill to upgrade the system to what it needs. Not governments, not residents, not motorists, and certainly not riders.

    Jerm IX, I'm a fan of your art and I look forward to seeing it under bridges and posted on Wooster and other street art blogs. As much as I would love to see it on skytrains too, I have to admit I agree with Tranlink on the revenue front (although $3000 to remove some posters sounds like complete bullshit to me too).

    Now, you have an artistic gift, and a fanbase. Ever thought about potentially doing a street art campaign to try to change peoples minds about funding for transit? The money has to come from somewhere, who do you think should pay for it?

  7. IF you work with them you need them to SIGN a contract that allows you to get X ammount of space, how long your art is going to run for and insure that they dont charge you for anything that was prior to the contract. cover your ass for anything, city workers are only trying to make money if what your doing isnt going to make them money there not going to want to do it and its going to move slow or not at all. thats all i think they will tell you something and in the end decide its not in their best intrest.

  8. If you have never seen his work, Cayetano Ferrer delved into some of the same concepts that you are working in. A while back, he actually did a very similar project where he replaced advertisements on subways with text-less signs that just contained blank symbols ( ). He also expanded that to products on shelves ( ) and to creating translucent signs around Chicago ( )

    As far as working with the transit company to put your/other artists things up, I think it would be a great call to go for it. If someone wants to put your art up in a public space and pay you for it, why not? Just get a good lawyer for negotiations.

  9. I'm think the project makes a point that should keep on... public ads are an affront, and worthy of being treated as a canvas for street art and human response. Fuck the ads.

  10. okay, clearly late to this discussion -- I'm very curious to know if any progress has been made with some sort of V-TARP/Translink collaboration since this was posted well over a year ago.

    I find it difficult to take anything Translink says about revenue/expense/etc. seriously -- when I moved to Vancouver just over 2 years ago, I was more than a little stunned to learn that the whole Skytrain system runs on the honour system. No turnstiles, no accountability... A committee of pure genius clearly came up with that chunk of ridiculousness.

    About a year ago I met a woman whose husband is a planner for Translink. I learned that Translink employees (and their families) are given buspasses for free and encouraged to use public transport. Encouraged. This particular husband and wife own 2 vehicles and she said she tries to ride her bike or take the bus, but, well.... we were having this conversation in her vehicle, not on the bus, not on a bike trail....

  11. Simply, admirable what you have done here. It is pleasing to look you express from the heart and your clarity on this significant content can be easily looked. Remarkable post and will look forward to your future update.
    Lightweight Truck Tarps

  12. I just came across this ...late to the game...but must tell you I LOVE what you did and have done and I truly hope you have continued this work. Fantastic!!!