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HOUSTON -- While for years Metro has refused to sell ad space on buses and trains, recently Houston Zoo advertisements have been featured on the side of a metro train.

Metro officials said it is a cooperative agreement between the Houston Zoo and Metro.

We are promoting a location, a sight on our light rail line, Acting Metro President George Greanias said.

There is no revenue involved, but opening up the gray or white canvas of a train or a bus to advertising can be hugely lucrative.

Right now we are going through the budget process getting ready for next year and we are looking at all the options including advertising, Greanias said.

In a survey of transportation agencies around the country about 86 percent reported selling advertising.

Revenue ranged from thousands of dollars to more than $30 million annually, and that was in 1998.

Last year, the Metro Transit Authority in Washington DC brought in $42 million in advertising revenue.

But Greanias said there is more at stake than money, mainly a clean crisp image that the authority has spent years trying to build.

The question is, do you undermine all of the time and money you have invested in that to get this advertising revenue? It is a balancing act, he said.

Despite the worry about a detrimental effect on the clean Metro image, there have been no complaints about the promotions that have appeared on the trains.

Matt Blanchard is a Metro Rail rider and said he noticed them right away.

I think they look alright. I don't think that it hurts the looks of the train at all, he said.

There are some riders who are not so fond of the thought of non-Metro related ads.

The rail doesn't stop in front of Victoria s Secret, So nah, said Alejandra Quinones just before getting on the train.

The current promotion is designed by Metro and is limited to just three of the 18 rail cars.

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