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Will television soon disappear from MTA buses?

February 9, 2009 |  3:13 pm

(UPDATED, 3:55 p.m. Monday with comment below from Transit TV officials)

If you've ever had the pleasure of riding a bus in Los Angeles County for a long distance in the last few years, you probably know about the phenomenon called "Transit TV." Here's how it works: The bus rider sits (or stands) on the bus while one or two well-positioned television monitors blast advertisements and transit news at said rider.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority signed a deal with Transit TV that began in 2005. For the MTA, it was a chance to make some ad revenue -- about $132,000 in the best year -- by putting televisions on most of its fleet of buses. For Transit TV, it was a way -- as their website still boasts -- to reach a "truly captive audience." 

But now it appears that the plug may soon be pulled on the experiment. Torstar Corporation, the Canadian firm that owns Transit TV, announced Thursday that it planned to close Transit TV. At the same time, Transit TV also filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

MTA spokesman Marc Littman said that the agency received word on Friday that Transit TV's Florida offices had been closed and that the operation would be shut down. The televisions will continue to run with fresh content until that runs out and then revert to "lifestyle" type programming that was previously stored in the computers that control the monitors, said Lorenzo Demarchi, a vice president of corporate development for Torstar. Whether the televisions are left on the buses or are taken away is ultimately up to a trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court, Demarchi added.

If the televisions disappear, the question remains whether passengers would clamor to have TV service resumed -- or whether those who were weary of having their auditory and visual landscapes intruded upon will resist future attempts to bring the boob tube back to the bus.

--Steve Hymon