Carrboro Alderman Joal Broun sparked discussion on the issue at Tuesday's Board of Aldermen meeting after Chapel Hill Town Council member Joyce Brown initially suggested the idea at last week's council meeting.
Although the issue has been discussed in previous years, officials have never approved similar proposals.
Brown requested that council staff compile a report examining transit advertising and make it available to the full council by the end of the month.
The Board of Aldermen also will receive a written transcript of the council's discussion and its report on the matter.
Brown said she hopes to use the revenue generated from advertising on buses to fund alternative fuel vehicles for the town.
But Broun said she hopes Carrboro would use the revenue to fund its share of fare-free busing costs when transit service becomes free Jan. 1, 2002.
Fare-free service will be financed by transit funds from Chapel Hill and Carrboro and a student fee increase, expected to go into effect by fall 2002.
"We need to look at every avenue so we can support the bus system," Broun said. "The bus system is an important area for making our town a good place to live."
Alderman Mark Dorosin agreed, saying Carrboro would need additional revenue to fund fare-free busing.
"(The advertisements) could offset costs, which will increase now that we're going into fare-free," he said.
But Alderman Allen Spalt said he does not see a pressing need for additional funds. "I think it's way too early to say that (fare-free busing and transit advertising) should be linked," he said. "I think if (fare-free) shows any real signs of success, then we'll find the money to pay for it."
Spalt also said he believes placing advertising on buses creates an unnecessary eyesore.
"I'm not a fan of putting billboards downtown, whether they're stationary or they're rolling," he said.
Another concern Spalt raised was of the town's regulation on advertisers. "(Should) First Amendment problems arise, ... as a public body (we would) probably have to open it up to everybody," he said.
But both the aldermen and the council agree that something must be done to address pollution in the towns.
Brown said she hoped Chapel Hill would use its advertising revenue to purchase alternative fuel vehicles because they will emit cleaner air than vehicles that use gasoline.
She said, "(My proposal) might (get) diluted, but I hope not because we really need to change our fleet of vehicles."
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