St. Louis MetroLink’s Arts-in-Transit Art Bus Fleet

The Art Bus Fleet has been in circulation since 1996.  Today, the program is a highly visible partnership between local not-for-profits (NFP) and MetroLink that promotes the NFP at a significantly reduced rate.

St. Louis Chess Club 2009 bus by Arcturis

There are typically four to six art buses in circulation at one time. A local artist is partnered with a NFP requesting a bus wrap. The artist then creates the design and traces it onto the bus after it has been wrapped with a white vinyl layer.  Finally, the community, families, and children, are invited to paint the bus at an event sponsored by the NFP.  Each bus is wrapped for one year, when it is then rewrapped in white vinyl for the next NFP request. 

The focus of the program is not on the design, so much as on the message it is sending. The program’s purpose is to promote local organizations and NFPs, and in those regards it is extremely successful.  It builds partnerships within the city, advertises the organizations to city residents, and gives members of the community ownership and pride in the project because they had the opportunity to help paint it.  The program also has the dual purpose giving artist/designers a new venue and of highlighting community organizations and cultural amenities. 

 The cost for an average company to maintain a four-sided bus wrap advertisement for one year ranges from $50,000 to $70,000.  However, the cost to produce each bus wrap, $3,500, which includes a $2,000 artist honorarium, is completely covered by federal and state grants.  The program manages to keep the costs low by wrapping the buses in vinyl and then painting them in basic latex paints, which avoids time and resource intensive paint stripping and prep work, and having volunteer community members paint the majority of the bus.

The Metro AIT program is a unique solution to building community investment in transit and in building community partnerships through transit.   

The images on this page depict some of the finished buses. More detailed budget and process information can be found at [link to the whole report].

Special thanks to David Allen, Director, Metro’s Arts in Transit and Monica Leap of UNC-Chapel Hill for assistance with this profile.

Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club 2008 bus by Steve Edwards