Billboards Street Scene

Scenic Houston speaks out against turning METRO buses into rolling billboards.

On Friday, May 11th, the Houston METRO Board of Directors convened a special meeting to hear public comments on the future of METRO’s General Mobility Plan, which must be brought before the public for a vote within the next year.

This review of funding formulas is occurring at the same time METRO is studying the revenue potential of selling ad space on its vehicles and properties.  Scenic Houston Executive Director Anne Culver made a statement at the meeting, which also represented the position of the Uptown Houston, Energy Corridor and Greenspoint Management Districts.

The position of these organizations, all vested in enhancing the visual appeal and economic vitality of the Houston region, is that METRO funding decisions should not change the agency’s long-standing policy of not selling advertising on the exteriors of its vehicles.  Otherwise, METRO could be responsible for turning its bus fleet into rolling billboards in a city that has banned new billboards for more than 30 years.

Here is the complete text of Scenic Houston’s statement:

“Good Morning, my name is Anne Culver, I am the Executive Director of Scenic Houston.  We are proud of our 40 year history or working to improve Houston’s quality of place, including particularly our successful support of a ban on all new billboards. 

In the statement we make today, Scenic Houston also represents the Uptown Houston, Energy Corridor and Greenspoint Management Districts.

Scenic Houston, and our predecessors, have been working since 1980 on the visual aspects of Houston’s streets and public spaces.  From “the billboard capital of the world” in 1980, with over 10,000 billboards, to fewer than 1500 today, the City of Houston, and surrounding areas, have made real progress across a broad agenda of scenic initiatives including freeway landscaping, scenic district development, more effective on-premise sign regulation and enhanced design standards for public projects.

Our commitment to the visual character of our city includes a concern with signage on METRO buses that roll through the neighborhoods every day.  METRO maintains an attractive bus fleet that reflects well on this agency and our region, and we strongly support the agency’s more than 30 year ban on bus advertising. 

Our individual members are also committed to mobility for our region, which is only becoming more critically important as the region is growing.  Every mobility solution has to be part of the mix.

We appreciate the tight economic climate and the difficulty METRO has in funding high capacity transit solutions.   We support METRO’s fiscal responsibility in exploring every angle to finance high capacity transit.  But we believe that one of the worst outcomes of this would be to change the long-held policy of not selling advertising on its vehicles and properties, particularly on the exteriors of buses.

Scenic Houston is in favor of measures to help alleviate METRO’s funding issues, including the freeing up of general mobility funding.   Better to alter that formula than to turn the METRO fleet into rolling billboards in a city that has banned billboards for more than 30 years.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. “

Scenic Houston continues to closely monitor the ongoing discussion at METRO around selling advertising on METRO buses and trains. We would also like your opinion on the possibility METRO will adopt a policy that could turn buses and trains into rolling billboards..

Please take a few moments to send us your thoughts on this issue by going to our METRO Advertising Policy Opinion Page