Council Denies Ad Request For Shuttle Service

OCEAN CITY – Advertising on the E-Cruzers shuttle service in Ocean City was addressed this week, and although owner Russell Rankin was able to gain some support in his appeal to puts ads on his shuttles, the request was ultimately denied in a split vote amongst the City Council.

Last year, the Mayor and Council approved E-Cruzers, a shuttle service that features six passenger Global Electric Motorcars traveling from east to west to transport people to and from the beach and other destinations, embracing the environmentally-friendly vehicles.

City officials supported the concept when Rankin first presented it to them, but the one aspect never agreed to was allowing advertising space to be sold on the vehicles. Town ordinances prohibit the sale of advertising on resort taxis, although advertising is allowed on municipal buses.

“We were denied that privilege last year in an emergency hearing five days before the start of the summer season and thought a more lengthy discussion well in advance of the start of the summer season should be entertained,” Rankin said.

Mayor Rick Meehan addressed last year’s advertising decision this week, pointing out that the council did not make a hasty decision.

“We had never been aware that advertising would be a part of your program,” he said, pointing out that Rankin never mentioned that in his presentations.

Nonetheless, Rankin returned this week, requesting once again to be allowed advertising space on his vehicles.

“Quite frankly, we can’t operate down here this season without that additional revenue,” said Rankin.

Rankin explained that while he was not certain that he could get the needed advertising for his vehicles, he would like the opportunity to try.

“We are seeking a one year trial run so that we can improve our bottom line and make it feasible to operate in Ocean City, our home,” he said, pointing out the company operated in the red all last year.

Rankin also noted that E Cruzers, which provide services throughout the state of Maryland, provides goodwill for Ocean City.

“Everywhere we go we’re a goodwill ambassador for Ocean City,” he said.

Rankin argued that while taxi services are not allowed to advertise, he is in a unique situation as a “green” business.

“’Green’ businesses need the assistance to survive and also to encourage others to follow and/or change their habits,” he said.

“There’s a lot of advertising on our city streets which is strictly advertising,” said Councilman Jay Hancock, referring to the city buses and the advertising vehicles that travel up and down Coastal Highway. “This advertising is coincident to the operation of his business. I think it might be worth reconsidering with limitations.”

Rankin noted that he would be willing to work with any limitations on signage and advertising space, adding,  “I’m not looking for national ads, I’m looking for smaller companies that can’t afford anything but this.”

“If its something that’s tasteful, I don’t have a problem with it,” said Councilman Lloyd Martin.

“I think it’s really important that you are a green business and that’s the only reason I’m considering it,” said Council member Mary Knight. 

Council President Joe Mitrecic said the council needs to be aware of the ramifications if it approves the request.

“I have to remind the council that the taxi drivers and the beach stand operators were in here with the same arguments and we told them no,” said Mitrecic. “I think that if we approve this we’re heading down a slippery slope. Whether you’re a green business, we cant really play favorites.”

Hancock pointed out that E-Cruzers are restricted in their hours of operation as well as in their travel area.

“I think its unobtrusive compared to the other advertising that goes on in Ocean City,” Hancock said.

Council member Nancy Howard maintained she was against any vehicle advertising in the town.

The council voted 4-3 to reject advertising on the shuttles with Martin, Hancock and Knight voting against the motion.