Advertising to return to Mobile buses, but wheelchair ads remain illegal
Reposted from a story Published: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 1:25 PM Updated: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 3:10 PM
MOBILE, Alabama — Get ready for the return of mobile advertising in Mobile.
The flashy — some would say garish — wraps that briefly enveloped the city’s buses last year were legalized during this morning’s City Council meeting, part of an overhaul of the city’s zoning ordinances.
The new rules clear the way for bus advertising, but if you were hoping to sell space on your wheelchair or Segway as advertising, you’ll just have to wait.
Bess Rich briefly opposed allowing the bus wraps — she said that the advertising should be limited to the lower half of the bus for reasons of good taste — but the overhaul ultimately passed unanimously.
Rich gave up opposition to the wraps, custom vinyl slips that allow the entire surface of a vehicle to become part of the advertising design, because of their money-making potential.
As it stands, the city has to subsidize the WAVE Transit Systems to the tune of $308,000 annually. Money brought in by the advertisements could significantly reduce that figure.
When Virginia College briefly advertised on six buses using the wraps last year, the bus system earned $45,000, City Clerk Lisa Lambert told the council this morning.
The advertising deal was scuttled though, when it was discovered that such mobile advertisements were technically illegal under the city code.
Now that the the buses are in play again, the city could earn much more. Lambert said that each of the city’s 24 buses could bring in $1,000 to $1,200 per month, yielding a conservative estimated annual income of about $288,000.
Customers are already lining up. Lawyer J. David Greene recently told the Press-Register that his firm, Greene & Phillips, already has a design in place.
Al Stokes, Mayor Sam Jones’ chief of staff, said that the bus wraps comply with national transportation safety standards and are commonplace in other cities.
In addition to the bus wraps, the new ordinance also legalizes many other types of mobile advertising that, though commonplace, were technically illegal under the old law.
City Council candidates who adorned their cars with campaign magnets, for example, were breaking the law.
While the new regulations make way for most types of mobile advertising, advertising on “personal mobility equipment” remains illegal for the time being.
That leaves Dymond Dembo, a disabled man who wants to advertise on the back of his motorized wheelchair, in the lurch. He’s been pushing for months to have the rules changed.
The council initially was receptive, but his efforts were sidetracked after Rich raised concerns that, were such advertising made legal, advertisers could flock to residential neighborhoods on motor scooters and other personal transportation devices.
That kind of advertising was fine for downtown, she said, but should be prohibited elsewhere.
Council member Gina Gregory said that she advocated for amending the new rules to allow Dembo and others to advertize on scooters downtown, but that the City Council attorney advised her that, for procedural reasons, the change would have to be made first by the city’s Planning Commission and then approved by the City Council.
Eventually, she said, Dembo, who had downtown in mind anyway, will be allowed to advertise there, but it will take a bit longer.