Tugwell gets EBR bus bench contract, with restrictions

Tugwell retains contract, but new restrictions added

Richard Tugwell, the businessman who for 35 years had sole authority to place bus benches around East Baton Rouge Parish, got the Metro Council’s approval Wednesday to continue providing bus benches for another eight years.

Tugwell’s new contract, which allows him to place bus benches with advertising on them, is more restrictive than two other bus bench contracts approved earlier this month.

The bus bench issue has caused many city-parish headaches in recent months, after the council approved two other more loosely regulated contracts that resulted in a sprint to place benches at bus stops.

Many complain the benches, which are funded via advertisements posted on the backs, are poorly regulated eyesores that often show up randomly instead of at designated bus stops.

The Metro Council in recent months passed bus bench contracts for Giraffe Advertisement and Geaux Benches, but the two agency contracts don’t have any caps on how many benches they can place or restrictions on what kind of advertising they can put on the benches.

The city-parish collects 10 percent of ad revenue in exchange for allowing the benches to be placed in public rights of way.

Tugwell’s contract limits him to 300 benches, and attempts to address many of the issues council members have raised regarding problems with the previous two contracts.

The Capital Area Transit System, which provides bus service in the parish, has said it intends to place about 100 of its own covered and lit bus shelters at stops next year.

There are about 2,000 bus stops.

Tugwell said about 140 of his company’s bus benches are on state roads, which will have to be pulled up by the end of the year to comply with state policies.

The Department of Transportation and Development mandated the bus benches can not be in the rights of way of state roads, unless permitted by a local governing entity permits it. CATS has denied the permitting.

“They’ve made us jump through hoops for the last three months and we’ve done everything they asked of us,” Tugwell said, referring to his interactions with the Metro Council. “They’ve worn us down. This hurts our company and it hurts the city.”

Councilman Trae Welch said he doesn’t think it’s over because the city-parish still has a problem with the proliferation of bus benches by the other two companies. He said he would still like to figure a way to use permitting for state roads as leverage to get the other companies to sign more restrictive contracts.