City considers using buses as moving billboards

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Honolulu is one of the only major cities in the country or the world that doesn’t allow advertising on the outside of buses.

It’s an idea the city is considering to help generate needed funding.

With more money, it could mean the city could restore more bus routes and eliminate the need for future cuts.

“Going forward, we’re going to be looking at how to tweak the system, what other enhancements we can do, and subject to finding the revenue to do this — whether it be through bus advertising or means we’ll be looking at other routes to be improved,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

The Outdoor Circle has been a long-standing opponent of such advertising.

“Billboards on buses, just like billboards on buildings, are illegal in Hawaii. And it’s part of the overall character of Hawaii,” Outdoor Circle Executive Director Marti Townsend said.

Some people like the idea while others do not.

“I personally don’t think it’s a good idea. We have the ads in the bus already. It might help if people saw the ads more often if it was on the outside, but overall I don’t think it would be a good idea,” bus rider Aliya said.

“I feel that it’s a good thing because like in Korea, they do that and it’s really helpful. And the bus cost used to be cheaper, but now it’s more expensive. So it would be great if it went down,” bus rider Sarah said.

Those representing clients who might advertise on the outside of buses liked the idea — with certain provisions.

“I found that recently when I was in New York, I spent a lot of time looking at the outsides of those buses and reading the advertisements. Yes, I think that it’s certainly something we would look at in spectrum of all media available to clients,” Limtiaco company CEO Ruth Limitiaco said.

“If you were trying to promote an event, or trying to promote a sale, that’s going to have a time frame — when you’re going to start and you’re going to end relatively short. I think it would be much more effective for that,” Bright Light Company Senior Vice President of Client Services Wally Zimmermann said.

The debate is not likely to end soon.

Related story: City restoring more bus routes

Current Hawaii Revised Statutes:

§445-112 Where and when permitted. No person shall erect, maintain, or use a billboard or display any outdoor advertising device, except as provided in this section

§445‑112.5 Vehicular advertising prohibited; penalty. (a) It is unlawful for any person to operate or park, or cause to be operated or parked, on any street, roadway, or other public place, or on any private property that can be seen from any street, roadway, or other public place, any vehicle or trailer carrying a vehicular advertising device for consideration or any other economic benefit if the vehicle or trailer is used primarily to display a vehicular advertising device. The phrase “for consideration or any other economic benefit” shall not include any benefit derived by the owner or operator of the vehicle or trailer from the effect of the advertising.
(b) Every day of continued violation of this section shall constitute a separate offense.
(c) Any person convicted of violating this section shall be fined:
(1) Not less than $200 or more than $1,000, for the first offense;
(2) Not less than $500 or more than $2,000 for the second offense; and
(3) Not less than $1,000 or more than $5,000 for the third and subsequent offense.
(d) As used in this section:
“Trailer” means a vehicle or conveyance with or without motive power designed to be pulled or propelled by a vehicle or other form of power.
“Vehicular advertising device” means any sign, writing, picture, poster, painting, notice, bill, model, display, symbol, emblem, or similar device, which is so designed that it draws the attention of persons in any public street, roadway, or other public place. [L 2006, c 222, §2]

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