Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


Public transportation systems carry millions of daily commuters and provide a valuable platform for display advertising. However, transit authorities that open their rolling billboards to speech may be hesitant to carry ads that offend riders and create conflicts with their mission of providing a safe and comfortable commuting experience. Advocacy groups have sued to overturn bans on controversial transit ads, prompting inconsistent rulings about whether such bans violate the First Amendment. These rulings rely on Lehman v. City of Shaker Heights, a divided Supreme Court decision from 1974 that held that the First Amendment did not require the Shaker Heights transit system to run political ads inside buses. This article proposes that it is time for the Supreme Court to revisit Lehman, and time for public transit agencies to choose between advertising revenue and unfettered speech.

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