VALPARAISO | The first checks have started to arrive for ads now appearing on the Porter County Aging and Community Services buses in a move that could prove pivotal in maintaining the extended hours of service.
PCACS Executive Director Bruce Lindner said Clean Zone Marketing came to him a few months ago offering the agency a chance to make $12,000 to $30,000 a year by putting ads on its buses. It wasn't hard for the PCACS board to vote for approval.
Lindner said Clean Zone first approached Valparaiso about putting ads on the V-Line buses about a year ago. It took awhile to get all the policies approved to meet federal funding guidelines, which require that the ads are not offensive to anyone. The city's Board of Public Works and Safety had to adopt the changes and get approval from the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, which administers the funds for both bus systems.
After the city had its ad program up and running, Planning Director Tyler Kent suggested Clean Zone contact Lindner. The first ads began appearing on the PCACS buses about 90 days ago, and Lindner said the agency has received two checks for $750 so far with others pending. PCACS splits the revenue 50-50 with Clean Zone.
"With the money we are getting from the county commissioners, we can operate as long as gas stays below $3.75 a gallon," Lindner said. "If it goes above that, we will go through this money pretty quickly."
PCACS operates seven buses 10 hours a day. Without the county funds, it would only have enough federal funding to operate three buses.
The agency provides between 24,000 and 26,000 trips a year and uses about 42,000 gallons of gasoline. About 500 people, who are elderly or disabled, are regular users of the service.
"Our system makes a lot more sense for people to use than an ambulance (to take them for medical treatment). Too bad the government can't figure that out," Lindner said.
The cost of an ambulance is about $150 a trip while the cost of operating a bus is about $40 an hour. So far, the buses have ads for Porter Regional Hospital; Addison Pointe Health & Rehab Center, in Chesterton; and St. Mary Medical Center's new Valparaiso Health Center, which is scheduled to open in February.
"This is money we wouldn't have had otherwise," Lindner said. "We are always looking for ways to help pay for fuel. It is a benefit to us and a way for local businesses to help support our vital transportation service in Porter County. We are really appreciative of Porter hospital jumping on and helping right away."