Bus Shelter Advertising Debate headed to City Council

August 12, 2009 170 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

"With the economy as bad as it is, and a lack of public dollars to construct and maintain new shelters, this is a good time for the community to support a transit program that is completely paid for by the private sector. We talk a lot about public/private partnerships and here we have an opportunity to put one together that the community will directly benefit from without the use of tax dollars." - Mike Miller, JTA Director of External Affairs

What is Ordinance 2009-401?

In summary, Ord. 2009-401 would give JTA the approval it needs to allow advertising on transit shelters. We would like to join dozens of other transit agencies and cities across the country, in increasing the number of transit shelters for our current riders and to attract new transit riders, and do so at no cost to the taxpayer. This is a classic case of a public agency entering into a public/private partnership to offer services people need without using scarce tax dollars. After all, we sell naming rights to stadiums, arenas and ball parks to offset a portion of the operational costs of those facilities. The shelter company would enter into a long term agreement with JTA and install and maintain a minimum number of shelters each year over the course of the contract. The shelter locations would be approved by the transit agency and placed at stops where the number of riders make it warranted. The shelter company would sell ads on one side of the shelter to recover their capital and operational costs. All ads must be approved by JTA and fall within JTA's Board of Directors Advertising Policy. The purpose of this proposal is not to fill the city with unwanted advertising, its to build more shelters. We currently have 400 shelters and over 6,000 bus stops. We believe our riders deserve better as does CM Jones and the nine additional council members who've put their name on this bill.
Mike Miller, JTA Director of External Affairs

Gimme Shelter

A brief video by JTA explaining why its time to support a bill that adds hundreds of new bus shelters at no cost to taxpayers.

Improving an economic development weakness

View from a Competitor

Florida Trend asked an economic development professional in a market that competes with Jacksonville to assess the city’s strengths and weaknesses.

”Jacksonville has been linked ‘to a great sea by a great river’ since its beginning days. With the widening of the Panama Canal, scheduled for completion in 2014, Jacksonville is poised to assume an even more powerful leadership role in the coming era of giant cargo ships. But its greatest strength is its model of government, created in 1968. Jacksonville is today the envy of civic, business and governmental leaders from across our state, since its one-stop-style-of-local-government makes doing things in Jacksonville easy when compared to most other cities and counties in Florida.”

"Although it is the largest city in our state by size, when contrasted to and when competing with other regions of Florida, Jacksonville has a comparatively small population. As a result, it lacks some of the amenities and the quality of life image now being demanded by the creative class. In the years ahead, Jacksonville will have to learn how to better showcase its assets; not just to future residents now living in other parts of the United States, but to those citizens looking to relocate to the United States from other countries. This international competition for talent is going to be an especially difficult game for Jacksonville to win, unless it establishes new ways of recruiting highly skilled, highly educated, highly motivated workers, essential for the new economy.”

See: http://www.floridatrend.com/article.asp?page=1&aID=51436

Growing numbers of creative workers will no longer tolerate time-wasting commutes.  In a massive national survey of information technology workers by InformationWeek, commuting distance was ranked among the most important job attributes by about 20% of respondents -- outscoring items such as bonus opportunities and financial stability of the firm.  Regions that find ways to cut their time overhead may well enjoy a competitive advantage in the future.

Because of the need for people to save time, rebuilding and improving public transit must be a priority...

Page 168, Cities and the Creative Class by Richard Florida

While some may view the bus shelter discussion as simply an aesthetic one, it's actually an issue that will determine the direction of our city's economic future. A look around the country reveals that quality mass transit is one of the top urban amenities that appeals to the creative class.  It is a critical element in the recruiting of highly skilled and educated workers that are essential for the new economy.  Locally, mass transit happens to be one of Jacksonville's major weaknesses.  

In addition to the acceptance of rail-based transit over additional road expansion in Jacksonville, our community must also significantly improve the bus system.  Having quality, well maintained shelters that protect riders from the Florida rain and sun is a must.

Shelters with Advertising in Peer Cities

They say there is nothing new under the sun, a phrase which rings especially true with advertising on bus shelters. Here are a few images of well designed, privately funded bus shelters in other cities. It is important to note that these privately funded shelters are all superior to what we currently have locally in Jacksonville. They also do not detract from the environment they are placed into and can be designed to further integrate into their immediate surroundings.


Baltimore's modern bus shelters are designed in a fashion that adds character to the sidewalks.


Chicago's shelters incorporate an open and highly visible design.


The bus shelter bill is an excellent example of using private sector investment to enhance the quality of public mass transit.  For those interested in fake trolleys and real rail systems, this type of program can also reduce the cost for them.  Like bus users, faux trolley and rail riders also need protection from natural elements to enhance their usability.  

New York City

Even in Manhattan, efficient bus transportation is important.


Pittsburgh's bus shelters feature a unique design that has advertisements placed parallel to vehicular traffic.


Toronto's shelters allow transit riders to enter them from two directions.  Benches are also designed to eliminate vagrants from using them for sleeping.

Charleston, SC

Although Charleston's shelters feature no advertising, they are a great example of a new design that fits architecturally into a national historic district.

If you are against bus shelter advertising

The lack of shelters in Jacksonville is a problem that our community must overcome if we want to compete in the new economy.  For those not willing to support this universal public/private shelter program, work to offer a viable alternative solution with examples.  Killing a viable affordable solution without an alternative on the table does the entire city a disservice.

What can you do to help enhance mass transit in Jacksonville?

While there are council members in support of the bus shelter bill, there are others who are on the fence or outright opposed. Regardless of whether you are for or against having 750 free maintained bus shelters installed on Jacksonville's streets, voice your opinion by attending the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, August 13, 2009.

For those who can not attend, pick up the phone and give your council representative a call, or send the council an email at cityc@coj.net

Article by Ennis Davis