From ads to no ads and back again (maybe): the saga of West Colorado Avenue’s bus benches

       In 1988, the city, working with its transit company, installed 32 wood and wrought-iron benches bearing the slogan “Colorado Springs: Where Legend Lives” at the bus stops along West Colorado Avenue between Walnut and 32nd streets.

The advertising on this recently installed bus bench at 15th and West Colorado was allowed through a loophole in the current Mountain Metro contract.
Westside Pioneer photo

       One of their features was a lack of advertising; in fact, the project installing them removed all the old benches in that segment that had ads on their backrests.
       Twenty-three years later, West Colorado has come full circle. With the bus company (now named Mountain Metropolitan Transit) hurting for money, an effort has begun to once again allow advertising at bus stops along West Colorado.
       “We're in the process of renewing our advertising contract,” said Andy Garton, the Mountain Metro business adminstrator, in a recent interview. “Our old contract precluded us from installing advertising benches in those areas, but things have obviously changed over the course of 20 years. Anything we can do to generate revenue is what we're looking to do. We want to get a handle on the limits and restrictions.”
       Garton did concede that at four stops on the avenue - benches at 13th, 15th and 28th streets and a metal shelter at 23rd - advertising signs have been installed already. He said that was permissible under a loophole in the current contract with the Lamar company, which allows advertising at stops on West Colorado if it's “authorized by the city.” But over the long term, the city would prefer to have a more consistent policy, he elaborated.
       The Mountain Metro plan is to award the new contract by the first of the year. The request for proposals that the city prepared for that purpose does not address West Colorado, but does specify a rate structure for bus bench/shelter advertising. This would allow the Westside segment to be added through a contract “adjustment” at a later date, Garton said.
       Under the current Lamar contract, the bus company gets 20 percent of ad sales, and total earnings citywide amount to $2,000 to $3,000 for benches and $3,000 to $4,000 for a shelter, he said. He declined to say what the new contract might call for, because it is under negotiation.
       Once the bus company gets to the point of preparing a draft proposal for West Colorado bus-stop advertising, citizens will be informed of it so they can offer comments, Garton said. He couldn't say how soon that might be: “We're still in kind of an investigation phase.”
       The investigation has gone slowly. Garton has not found any documentation stating that the “Legend” benches were intended for bus stops, let alone who is supposed to be maintaining them. He doesn't know why this is the case, but it's fact that in 23 years, the bus company has changed names and gone from being a city contractor to a city division; meanwhile, bus stops have moved to different places on the avenue, personnel have left the city, and the Redevelopment office that spearheaded the purchase of those benches no longer exists.
       In an example of the knowledge shortfall, one of the Legend benches mysteriously wound up recently on the south side of 29th Street where there isn't a bus stop. A citizen complained to the city in September that transients were using the bench as a hang-out. Sue Matz, the city's revocable permits chief, looked into the matter, found no information, and concluded in an e-mail that “none of the black wrought iron and wood benches within the Colorado Avenue right-of-way [the Legend benches] have the required revocable permits to be within the city rights-of-way.”

The same bench today. Note the missing plaque.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The Westside Pioneer has since been able to provide Matz and Garton with some informal history. Pioneer editor Kenyon Jordan had written a news article on the benches when they were new. According to the article, which appeared Aug. 12, 1988, in the now-defunct Pikes Peak Journal weekly, 32 benches were purchased by what was then the city's Redevelopment office at a cost of $26,603. A feature was their lack of advertising. In the story, then-Redevelopment official Bob Patoni was quoted as saying, “We're interested in economic development, but we have to listen to the wishes of the community.
       Now living in Arizona, where he is employed by a utility company, Patoni said in a phone interview that benches without advertising had been urged by the Organization of Westside Neighbors, the city-recognized older-Westside advocacy group (formed in 1978). “They thought the ads on the concrete benches were cheesy looking, and if cars hit them, there would be broken concrete all over the place,” he recalled. Regarding maintenance, his recollection was that transit officials had agreed to handle that aspect because “they benefitted more than anybody else.” In fact, Patoni said, some of the stops previously had no benches at all.
       (Side note: Legend benches were not installed through Old Colorado City. It already had its own historic-style bus benches, and these continue to be maintained by the Old Colorado City Security & Mainte-nance District, according to its sole employee, David Porter, who has worked there for 24 years.)
       Time has taken a toll on the Legend benches. In a recent survey, the Pioneer found that just 11 of them remain, and several are missing one or both of their “Where Legend Lives” plaques. The main culprits in the disappearances seem to have been vandals and errant motorists. Where they had once been, newer benches or shelters now sit or, at a few stops, there are no benches at all.

A 1988 article in the former weekly newspaper, the Pikes Peak Journal, shows the "Legend" bench at 11th and Colorado when it was new.
From Jordan collection

       Two additional Legend benches reside inexplicably outside the front door of the Paradise Sales gun shop at Chestnut and Colorado. Owner Paul Paradis said he doesn't know their history, noting that they were already there when he relocated to that storefront a few years ago.
       Asked what might happen to the Legend benches if advertising on the West Colorado segment is ultimately OK'd, Garton said that's to be determined. He's not even sure if they meet modern standards for handicapped access or impact from a car. Also, he pointed out that the average life span of bus benches is 10 years, which means that, based on a 1988 installation time frame, “they are well past their useful life.”

Westside Pioneer article