TARTA board adopts new advertising policy

Causes, political promotions not allowed on buses after April 1


Anyone seeking to promote a cause or a political candidate won't be able to do so with advertising on Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority buses after April 1.

The TARTA board of trustees voted today to adopt an advertising policy that allows only commercial advertising promoting a business, product, or service; governmental advertising promoting public programs or events, or TARTA operations.

The policy "is necessary to protect the authority from controversy that could arise because of issue-oriented advertising," Dee Talmage, chairman of the TARTA trustees' policy committee, told the full board during its meeting.

James Gee, the transit authority's general manager, said after the meeting that the policy replaces a vague statement giving the agency the authority to reject inappropriate advertising, and is inspired by lawsuits brought against transit authorities elsewhere when they refused to allow ads about controversial subjects.

He cited an on-going lawsuit involving the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which in 2011 rejected an advertisement critical of Israel.

After a federal district court judge found the Ann Arbor agency's "good taste" policy to be facially unconstitutional, the AATA adopted a new policy similar to the one now approved by TARTA, and has continued to reject the ad that Blaine Coleman, represented in the case by the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, attempted to place.

Mr. Gee said he could not recall any recent examples of politically oriented advertising on TARTA buses, which under the policy would include ads promoting election candidates or referendum issues, such as levies.

The transit authority ran no bus advertising promoting its own most recent levy campaign, Mr. Gee said.

The most recent example he said he could remember of an ad rejected by TARTA was one during the 1990s, offered as part of an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, that depicted an unrolled condom.