Why is allowing ads on Metro buses so hard?

The Chron editorial board weighs in.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority should proceed cautiously as it considers lifting its ban on commercial advertising on buses, rail cars, stations and shelters. That prohibition has served Houston well over the years, working together with old efforts by the city and Texas Legislature to greatly reduce the billboards that were once so ubiquitous here.

Before the laws changed in the 1980s, Houston had more than 10,000 billboard pedestals displaying so-called off-premises advertisements. Thanks to tough laws preventing new structures from being added, that number is now fewer than 1,500.

If Metro changes its rules, the city could suddenly see hundreds of new, large-format billboards on buses rolling through our neighborhoods.

That doesn’t sound like progress to us.


Fortunately, plans to vote on this proposal have been delayed, as Houston Chronicle transportation writer Dug Begley reported Monday. The matter is being sent back to committee, and a vote isn’t expected until June.

We urge Metro to concentrate on three priorities between now and then:

Let the public be heard. No public hearings are required, other than the always-available public comment sessions at regular Metro board meetings. But the board should hold them anyway, choosing two or more times when riders and non-riders alike can show up to speak for or against the proposal. It’s that important.

Quantify the upside with as much precision as possible. So far, putting a finger on how much revenue can be expected has been difficult, but without a reliable figure any decision made will be made blind.

If the ads are allowed, dedicate the revenue to specific improvements that everyday riders can feel. For example, ads on the buses could be linked to specific increases to frequency or ads on shelters could be linked to building new ones. Dropping the new funds into general revenue to be spent willy-nilly shouldn’t be an option.

See here for the background. I mean, we’ve been talking about this for a decade. Even the US Senate moves faster than this. I’m fine with the three priorities, though honestly I have no idea what there is left to talk about. Let’s move forward and do what basically every other major city has been doing for many years.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Why is allowing ads on Metro buses so hard?

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    If (when) ads begin to be placed, the revenue should be earmarked for projects that benefit ALL Houstonians, not just bus riders. I’d suggest pothole repair. Specifically, fixing them correctly….cut out the pothole, put rebar in and pour fresh concrete.

    If you want a compromise, fix potholes on the bus routes. That helps the bus riders And everyone else.

  2. Manny says:

    Agree with Bill, I also think that advertising should be allowed. Don’t like ads don’t look at them. You hate them boycott the company that advertises. Really really hate them get others to join you in boycotting.

  3. C.L. says:

    Decorate them all like those used in the Philippines ! Turn them into Metro Art Buses !

    We got rid of most of the billboard eyesores around this town, now we want to pull those same billboards on wheels and drive them around the City ?

    Only upside ? Pothole repair funds.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    It would be a whole lot cheaper for Metro to buy WW II era jitneys and run them. Plus, it would be a welcoming message to our diverse 3rd World community in Hpuston. A little taste of home, as it were.

  5. mollusk says:

    I’m really getting tired of trying to “monetize” (i.e., sell) every dang thing in sight… particularly when it’s not enough money to really do anything significant. And yes, I remember Everett Dirksen’s “a billion here, a billion there… pretty soon you’re talking about real money” comment. But a governmental entity shouldn’t be so flippin’ obvious about selling itself to the highest bidder.

Comments are closed.