Well, that‘s a relief.
County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez’s quest to ban “Go Texans” and other messages from Metro’s digital bus marquees has ended unsuccessfully with a pass from the Federal Transportation Administration and a scathing letter from the Metro board chairman.
Last fall, Sanchez asked the federal agency and the Harris County Attorney’s office to determine whether Metro was “misusing federal transit dollars” or somehow breaking the law by displaying certain messages on the destination signs on the fronts and sides of its buses. Sanchez argued that messages like “Go Texans” were not appropriate because they promoted a privately owned company on publicly owned property.
Both entities looked into Sanchez’s inquiry and concluded that Metro’s current policy is legally sound, with the federal agency saying the only applicable prohibitions of marquee messages would be the ones adopted by Metro itself.
In a letter to Sanchez this week, Metro Board Chairman Gilbert Garcia described the inquiry as “unnecessary” and said it jeopardized Metro’s relationship with the federal transportation agency, which he described as “a critical partner that provides crucial funding for projects that help move people throughout the region.”
“We hope to avoid distractions as we continue to keep the Houston area moving,” Garcia wrote. “Rather than pursuing unnecessary inquiries, we hope you will join us to positively address the transit needs in our community.”
Sanchez expressed no regrets, pointing out that “prior to my inquiry, Metro had no policy” on bus marquee messaging.
See here for the background. Sanchez apparently complained to the FTA after the Metro board adopted its policy to allow for these sporting messages plus other generic ones such as “Happy Holidays”, which seems a little petty to me. I just hope we have a football team that’s worthy of the exhortation this fall.