How do they do that? is a new series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.
How do they cover the buses with those giant ads?
It’s all done by hand and it’s a time consuming process. Installing a full wrap ad covering the sides and back can take four to six hours per bus.
No paint is applied. Designers work from a template of the bus that will carry the ad to create the design, which is then printed on pressure sensitive vinyl like a giant sticker — but one that strips off easily so the bus surface is not damaged on removal.
Two or three people may work on a single bus installation. They start at the top, drop a wide vinyl roll down the side and then press it into place with a hard plastic tool. The pressure releases tiny balls of glue in the vinyl that attach it to the bus. Once a roll is posted the installers move over and post another until the bus is completely covered. They have to carefully trim the vinyl around windows, doors, vents and other features of the bus. A scant four to six hours later, they’re done.
The wrap glue is strong enough to keep the vinyl in place for a few years. But it is forgiving enough that when the ads have run their course, after only a short period of time promoting a movie or a TV show, for example, they can be peeled right off.
Not all ads are full wraps. Oversized ads that cover only part of one side of a bus can take only about an hour to install. But when you’re posting hundreds of them, the time can add up.
Like other transit agencies in the U.S., Europe and Asia, Metro’s bus-side advertising program earns money that is returned to the system to help keep the buses and trains running and the fares low; advertising on bus and rail is projected to net Metro $27.7 million this fiscal year. The agency’s entire budget for this year is $4.15 billion.