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Bus Shelter Advertising

Tom PattonLast week during the Jacksonville Observer Radio Show, one of our callers asked our guest, John Meserve, about the possibility of building additional bus shelters supported by advertising. Tuesday, the council passed an amendment to the city’s sign ordinance to allow new bus shelters to be built by a private company that will sell advertising space in them.

Everyone agrees that the city needs more bus shelters. Not a day goes by that I don’t pass a bus stop without a shelter where people are waiting for the bus. But the city is not really in a position to build more shelters.

There has been a lot of discussion about what kind of advertising will be in the shelters. I’ve seen concerns that there might be “inappropriate” advertising in the public bus shelters. Of course, those who are opposed to the idea of advertising in the shelters will conjure what they think is the worst possible scenario. The one they conjured was … lingerie.

There will be many things that can be advertised in a bus shelter. I’m sure we’re not going to see lingerie models on every street corner.

There are a lot of ways to avoid advertising these days. People with Tivo or other DVR equipment are not only skipping commercials, but they’re programming television to suit them. Even sports is not watched live. I talked to a friend recently who described watching a three-hour baseball game in about an hour, and never missed a pitch. Football games are much faster as well when you skip through the replays and commercials. And if I never see another faux coaches news conference commercial, it’ll be ok. Good advertising can be exceptional, bad advertising is just bad.

It’s not as easy to skip through the commercials on radio, but radio stations are so homogenous that it’s easy to skip from one to another. The songs will be about the same, and there’s no personality on them really any longer. Talk stations at least have recognizable personalities with whom the listener can identify.

So, advertisers are looking for any way to get their message in front of people.

But the largest objection to advertising in bus shelters is a concern about the sign ordinance. Many have expressed concerns that this exception to the sign ordinance will lead to its evisceration. Citing a Los Angeles precedent, those opposed to advertisers in bus shelters see a flood of applications for billboards where now there are none, with no legal basis for denying those applications. However there is also a Supreme Court precedent in San Diego that allows bus shelter ads but maintained the prohibition on billboards.

Advertising is going to find its way into our lives. There is no escaping it. A recent book called “The Feed” describes a not-too-distant future where a chip in your brain feeds programming, and advertising, directly into your consciousness. While that is still science fiction, in a society built on buying and selling goods and services, there will be advertising. But as often happens, it’s unlikely that Tuesday night’s city council vote will spell the advertising apocalypse some fear, but it is equally likely that those seeking to get their message to you will test the limits of the newly-amended law. The reality will lie somewhere in the middle. It’s a good thing that bus shelters with advertising will still be prohibited in residential neighborhoods, and certainly the restrictions on ads that apply to other media should certainly apply to bus shelters.

Advertising adorns bus shelters in many cities. The Metro in Washington, DC has lots of advertising for people to see as they wait for the train. After a while, all but the most exceptional fade into the background. In a time where the city has very little discretionary money, and a huge need for bus shelters, which can cost between $4,000 and $12,000 to construct and about $1,200 per year to maintain, it seems as if a well-crafted, thoughtful change in the sign ordinance to get them makes sense.

4 Responses »

  1. Hummm..... let's see..... After long and carefil consideration (About two minutes.) I think I have the solution. Build about half of the "needed" bus shelters. (Compromise)
    Put no advertising on them. ( Keep our city beautiful.) Since the Jags and stadium need more taxpayers $. (Nothing unusual.) Since the TV watchers cut out the game ads. (Upseting advertisers.) Then the solution is simple:

    Sell ads on the football players helmets and uniforms and split the take between the stadium and the bus shelters! Problem solved.

    Dean S. Bird

  2. Here is the deal. About 1901, someone wrote a story or book concerning what a city needs to be progressive. In it, he mentioned city parks, transportation for its citizens, healthcare, entertainment (plays, opera), a zoo and a few other items.

    City Mayors hopped on the idea and quickly requested the public to pay for these things.

    Before we look at building bus stops, we need to evaluate the entire bus system. Why do we use a gigantic bus to move two people around the city? Why do we have a bus with two bike racks when ten people have bikes?

    Let's be serious. Buy the new efficient diesel short trucks, convert them to buses, play buttons at bus stops or accept cellular phone requests to be picked up. Only stop or pick up at requested stops.


    Then and only then put up bus stops. And, put them a little farther apart. People need the exercise.


    Rotarians in Daytona built several as a civic project. Maybe we should have a bus stop built it day. Give us the parts and we will assemble them.


    Then look at the most stupid thing ... letting Firemen drive a GIGANTIC fire truck to a restaurant to eat.

    Sorry boys, cook your food at the firehouse or bring a sack lunch. We appreciate what you do but not enough to pay $100 or more to transport you to a restaurant and take up parking spaces.

  3. Shut down the Skyway or sell off the Kings Ave Garage and some of the other parking lots JTA owns, either one would save taxpayers money and provide more than enough $'s to fund shelters at every bus stop location in Jax.

  4. Good Morning just figured i would let you know i had a problem with this blog coming up frozen also. Must be chimpanzees in the system.