TRANSIT Coming soon to a bus stop near you: a high-tech ride with advertisements

The new model has security cameras inside and out.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Want a ride across town on a set of wheels more pricey than a new Porsche? Hop on one of the Western Reserve Transit Authority's new buses and you can.
The new buses, to be made available in coming weeks, come with a hefty $277,000 price tag. This upgrades the fleet to 48 full-size buses.
"These buses are high-tech," said WRTA executive director James J. Ferraro said at Thursday's monthly board meeting. "The low-floor feature is a godsend for many of our seniors. They have new security cameras on the inside and outside."
Ferraro also said another special feature includes what he considers better wheelchair lift equipment for the disabled.
Why buy the buses?
"We had concerns that we were starting to run short," said Ferraro, who noted that 80 percent of the cost was funded by the state. "We needed a bigger spare ratio. As services continue to grow, we need to maintain things a little better."
Which lucky drivers earn the new rides?
"We will assign them randomly," Ferraro said.
Don't be surprised if local political candidates are adorned on the sides of WRTA's buses in the near future. With May primaries around the corner, Ferraro said he's already been contacted by one candidate to run for the mayor's seat.
"We've sold them before," he said. "We even had bus-gate over it. We have the right to review all ads. What can be placed must meet our approval and be tasteful. We don't want to get involved in negative campaigning."
Ferraro said the advertisements will be based on a first-come, first-served basis.
"You call, and we say, 'How many do you want?'" Ferraro said. "This is an opportunity to pick up some good money. We're not out soliciting for space on the buses."
Number of riders
WRTA announced more Youngstown residents are traveling by bus than before. In a ridership report, WRTA registered 124,198 paid riders for January as opposed to 110,270 in January of 2004 -- an increase of 13 percent.
Ferraro was pleased to note that student ridership sharply rose by 18 percent, and the service attracted 7 percent more seniors this January than last.
WRTA also announced an overall passenger increase of "around 600" per weekday from this time last year.
WRTA board president Michael Bosela was re-elected to his position by his peers at Thursday's meeting. Raymond Brown was chosen as the authority's vice president, succeeding Barbara Orton.