A federal court judge presiding over a dispute between the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and a group seeking to purchase advertising space on SEPTA vehicles has ruled the agency must accept the ads, even if they contain messages that may be disparaging to riders and agency employees.
After careful consideration, SEPTA has decided not to appeal this ruling. The agency’s policy was revised in October 2014 to allow SEPTA to reject these types of ads without violating the First Amendment. However, this policy change was made after the American Freedom Defense Initiative's (AFDI) initial request to purchase advertising space and is not applicable in the matter.
Consequently, AFDI has executed a contact with SEPTA's advertising management agency, Titan, to purchase advertising space on the side panel of 84 SEPTA buses. The ads will contain what some may view as anti-Muslim messages. These vehicles will be placed in normal inventory rotation throughout the SEPTA service area. The ads will begin appearing on vehicles during the first week of April for a four-week period.
"We understand that our decision to not file an appeal will be disappointing to those who will be forced to view the disparaging ads," said SEPTA GM Joseph M. Casey. "We are aware that the presence of the ads could anger the public, but caution that attempts to vandalize the ads or deface SEPTA vehicles will not be tolerated."
SEPTA has apologized to its riders and urged them to comment or voice their concerns by completing a SEPTA Customer Service comment form.