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Advertising FAQs

Why does the T have advertising?
What is the T's advertising program?
How much money does the T make from advertising?
Apart from revenue, what are the benefits to T riders?
Can't people use their smartphones to access information about the MBTA?
Who decides what advertisements are placed at an MBTA facility?
Does the T have any control over the posted content?
How can I advertise on the T?
I'm a nonprofit/community/government organization, and I’d like to advertise at a discount. Does the T offer this?
What if I dislike an advertisement?
Why is alcohol advertised at some bus stops?
Why does the T own billboards?


Why does the T have advertising?

Advertising at stations and on trains dates back over a century – before the MBTA in its current form even existed! Public transportation has always been a meeting place, and businesses often took the opportunity to advertise their goods and services. In exchange, they pay and thereby help subsidize public transit. According to Massachusetts state law, the MBTA must maximize revenues from all possible sources before considering any fare increase. Advertising is a part of this, and it plays a major role in keeping rides affordable.

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What is the T's advertising program?

The MBTA’s advertising program runs across its facilities. This consists of:

  • Ad postings inside or outside of buses, trains, and trolleys
  • Posters and digital screens in MBTA stations
  • Other assets on MBTA property, like billboards

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How much money does the T make from advertising?

The MBTA currently makes about $30 million each year from advertising. These funds are used for a lot of different things, including keeping fares low and paying for key capital improvement projects (like new Red Line trains). Without this money from advertising, the MBTA would be required to identify funding from other sources, including fare increases or higher taxes.

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Apart from revenue, what are the benefits to T riders?

Better communications are a major benefit supported by advertising infrastructure. Whether it’s messaging for public safety, weather alerts, service disruptions, or trip planning, posters or displays installed and given at no cost to the T also help our riders stay informed about what’s happening.

The dynamic nature of new digital signage, in particular, allows for real-time information to be displayed. Content can rotate easily and quickly, which facilitates better communication to address various rider needs like large print or multiple languages.

Further, by owning advertising assets at its facilities, the MBTA can advertise its own services for free. This decreases costs in launching new services to meet customer needs, and increases ridership by making new residents and visitors aware of our services and programs.

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Can't people use their smartphones to access information about the MBTA?

The MBTA provides service information and real-time updates on MBTA.com, T-Alerts, and social media. However, it shouldn’t be a requirement to have a smartphone to get good, up-to-date information. It is our duty to provide information to all members of the public in ways that they are able to receive it.

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Who decides what advertisements are placed at an MBTA facility?

The MBTA works with media companies that manage and maintain the assets owned by the T. They also manage placement of content. In exchange, the MBTA gets a share of the revenue. Media companies have global relationships with advertisers to maximize the value of MBTA assets. Nearly all public transportation providers have similar agreements.

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Does the T have any control over the posted content?

Yes. The MBTA’s advertising programs operate under some of the most stringent advertising guidelines in the Commonwealth. Our advertising guidelines set out to do 2 things:

  1. Respect the needs and standards of our riders.
  2. Respect that advertising is a form of free speech that ought to be protected.

Download our advertising guidelines (PDF)

Download our advertising guidelines (Word)

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How can I advertise on the T?

Contact media partners who manage our advertising assets

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I'm a nonprofit/community/government organization, and I’d like to advertise at a discount. Does the T offer this?

The MBTA is pleased that our media partners are able to offer select groups discounts for advertising. We value community engagement and the opportunity for community groups to reach the public with messages about their missions and activities.

Contact media partners who manage our advertising assets

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What if I dislike an advertisement?

The MBTA values feedback. As our media partners manage advertising content for the T, we encourage you to specify the ad, the location, and the date you saw the ad.

Send us feedback

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Why is alcohol advertised at some bus stops?

The MBTA does not advertise alcohol at bus stops at this time. Bus shelters at bus stops are often built and maintained by the cities and towns they’re located in. Some municipalities have chosen to place alcohol advertising in those bus shelters. If this is a concern, it’s best to speak to the Mayor or Town Manager’s office responsible for where you see this advertising.

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Why does the T own billboards?

The MBTA owns a variety of assets on its facilities across Massachusetts that support how we deliver public transit service—things like garages, rail yards and some structures that support billboards. The vast majority of what are known as ‘billboards’ actually predate the MBTA in its current form (some go back over 70 years). These have been maintained to meet the legislative requirement of the MBTA to maximize non-fare revenue. However, over the last 20 years, the MBTA has removed over half of its existing billboards as it updates its asset base.

For all of its assets, the MBTA works hard to balance local considerations and improving our service (and earning revenues that limit fare increases and help us improve service). In the case of billboards, the MBTA works with our media partners to go through public processes to secure permits, while updating and improving our assets to be more useful to our riders and communities at large. And as noted above, in many instances older billboards are removed when other opportunities are identified.

More recently, the MBTA has placed customer communications, public service announcements, and community information as a priority for its outdoor asset portfolio. These mission-driven priorities are unique to the T.

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