Pilot Program Puts TVs in Boston Cabs

NEW YORK Bostonians who step into taxi cabs fitted with TV sets now have the option of watching more than the meter.

A pilot program that will equip a portion of the 1,825 cabs in greater Boston is growing, with New York-based TVinMotion among several vendors fitting taxis with LCD screens and DVD players, said Mark Cohen, director of public licensing for the Boston Police Department. A similar venture in New York failed when the Taxi and Limousine Commission opted to discontinue its market test, based on what it said was rider dissatisfaction.

The BPD does not yet have a formal method for evaluating rider feedback, Cohen said. In addition to satisfying the public, vendors will have to keep sets up and running and meet safety standards, Cohen said.

TVinMotion has rolled out the first of 25 cabs that will broadcast original programming and advertising content, said company representative Bruno Lucarelli. The company will add two to three sets a day until it fulfills its minimum commitment, and plans to install up to 200 before Boston hosts the Democratic National Convention in July.

DVD programming featuring segments produced by cable network A&E is aimed at residents and tourists and will focus on Boston landmarks including the USS Constitution and the Beacon Street district. Lucarelli said the company has just started courting advertisers.

Marketers will have the option of producing integrated content or running traditional TV spots, he said. Passengers cannot turn off the TVs, though they may control the volume.

The program is similar to one launched in New York City in 2002, but ended in August when the Taxi and Limousine Commission said the program got too much negative feedback from passengers.

Similar ventures in New York City failed when the Taxi and Liscencing Commission ended a one-year pilot program with several companies. Among them was I Love Taxi TV, a venture for which Lucarelli was also the spokesman. Among that company’s advertisers were Bally Total Fitness, American Express and Cingular Wireless, Lucarelli had said.

The financial terms of the licensing deals were undsiclosed.