CDOT admits that it didn’t follow one of its new bus advertising rules when two Cobb Community Transit buses recently started making their routes decked out in bright red “wrap” advertisements for McDonald’s. The ads completely cover the sides of the buses, including their windows.
That goes against an advertising program plan that the Board of Commissioners approved by a 5-0 vote in August 2012. The plan forbids CCT from covering more than 25 percent of a bus’s windows with ads.
Cobb Department of Transportation director Faye DiMassimo said that while the program plan puts a limit on window advertising, there was no such provision in the contract the county signed with Orlando-based Signal Outdoor Advertising. The agreement allowed Signal to sell bus ads, in exchange for splitting revenue with the county.
“We agree there is a conflict between the agreement and the Advertising Plan,” DiMassimo said in an email.
DiMassimo said her department would discuss how to address the conflict with commissioners and County Manager David Hankerson.
“For the time being we are going to allow the buses to remain in service and generating advertising revenue,” she said.
Other cities, including New York, have limited the amount of advertising allowed on bus windows partly because wraps can make it difficult for police officers to see inside a bus.
Cobb Police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce said that, while he wasn’t familiar with the county’s bus advertising situation, police recommend that businesses avoid placing advertisements in their windows that can block officers’ views inside.
“In keeping that window free and clear of posters and advertisements, it does allow us to see inside from a crime prevention standpoint,” Pierce said.
Struggles have been known to take place on CCT buses.
In February 2012, a passenger was arrested after police said she stabbed a CCT driver, Damian Haney, with a pen on a bus in a struggle with the driver in which the woman dropped a knife. The passenger, Taniesha Twyne, remains without bond in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center facing felony charges including aggravated assault and unlawful attempt to remove a firearm.
Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott said installing the wrap ads was likely an honest mistake.
“My understanding is they are working on correcting the situation,” he said.
CCT has smaller ads, which don’t cover the windows, on 40 of its buses, DiMassimo said. The departments contract with Signal states that the county will get either $60,000 for the first year of the deal, which runs through August 30, 2015, or 55 percent of total revenue received, whichever is higher. The guaranteed amount increases annually.
DiMassimo said CCT doesn’t yet have figures available for how much it has made from advertising revenue, which is dependent on market conditions.
“We will continue to evaluate and believe the program is going well,” she said.
Cobb’s bus advertising program was approved after a June 2011 recommendation by a 10-member Citizen Oversight Committee. The committee was appointed by commissioners earlier that year to find inefficiencies and cut costs. The recommendation came around the time the largely taxpayer subsidized CCT cut three lesser-used routes in a move intended to save the county around $2.4 million annually.
Other stipulations in the advertising program plan approved by commissioners included requiring county approval for all advertising content and forbidding advertisements for feminine hygiene products, contraceptives or sexually explicit material.