Tuesday, March 30, 2010

County Commissioners Lobby for Stronger State Billboard Restrictions in Texas

Texas communities take great pride in strictly regulating billboards. In fact, over 130 cities in the Lone Star state prohibit new billboards. Unfortunately, Texas counties do not have the same authority to regulate billboards as incorporated areas do. Out of concern that too many billboards are popping up in rural areas, many county commissioners are pushing the state to strengthen its own regulations.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kentucky billboard measure dies in Senate

The House bill that would have allowed "non-commercial" billboards to go up without permits in Kentucky was shot down in the Senate chambers on Friday.

An amendment to the bill also would have allowed for trees and vegetation to be cut down around billboards throughout the state.

Thanks and congratulations go to the folks at Scenic Kentucky, whose hard work helped stop this bill in the Senate.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Kentucky billboard bill could cost loss of $42 million in federal highway funding

Despite warnings from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet that a bill exempting non-commercial billboards from the Cabinet's permitting process was non-compliant with the Highway Beautification Act, the House approved the measure. Now, the Federal Highway Adminstration has officially warned the state officials that the bill does indeed appear to violate the HBA and that the state could lose 10% of its federal highway funding allocation if it passes.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Philadelphia Inquirer Cautions Against Digital Billboards

The Philadelphia Inquirer runs a strong editorial against Big Billboard's rush to digitize the American landscape and the need for governments to assess the safety of digital signs. The editorial notes that with plans for as many as 60,000 digital billboards across the country, our highways will look like Times Square without action.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

USA Today Covers Digital Billboard Regulation

Television on a stick. Fully animated, on-premises digital sign on I-70 in St. Louis. (photo by Tim A. Parker for USA Today)

USA Today covers the growing number of local governments enacting prohibitions and moratoria on digital billboards. Saint Louis, which just enacted a one year moratorium on digital signs, is featured.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rapid City Studies Digital Billboards During 90 Day Moratorium

The Rapid City Journal runs an in-depth article on digital billboards and how other cities are regulating them as the South Dakota city prepares for new regulations during a 90 day moratorium enacted last week.
Meanwhile, Daktronics, a manufacturer of digital signs, argues against the fact-based reality of traffic safety researchers: despite the ongoing FHWA safety study on digital billboard distraction and th exhaustive 2009 report prepared for AASHTO which concluded that the best science shows that digital signs indeed distract motorists eyes from the road for demonstrably unsafe periods of time, Daktronics says there are no concerns about their safety.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Now That is a Distracting Billboard!

Now that the traffic safety community has concluded that there is a sound and growing body of scientific evidence that digital billboards distract motorists' eyes from the road for unsafe periods of time, there may be a new, and possibly uncomfortable field of study if the naked man that stopped Dallas traffic by dancing on top of a billboard becomes a trend.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Billboards Behaving Badly

The Side Streets blog at the Colorado Springs Gazette has an excellent post highlighting the views of homeowners who have had the misfortune of a digital billboard moving into the neighborhood.

"The light shines right on my living room window. It blinks and I see it all the time. Blink. Blink. Blink," says one homeowner of the ultra-bright billboards that rotate ad copy every six seconds.
Across the country, the story is the same: digital billboards are bad neighbors. (See here and here for news videos of homeowners impacted by light trespass from digital billboards.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Plan to Create a mini-Times Square Raises Opposition in D.C.

Washington D.C.'s Gallery Place district, home of the Verizon Center and adjacent to the city's Chinatown, may become a mini-Times Square as developers are proposing to add a mass of digital signage to the area. Included in the plans are six fully animated street kiosks and two 45 foot tall signs that would be attached to a condominium.

As could be expected, the proposal is being met with opposition from neighborhood residents and preservationists in a city that has strict sign limits. Several condo owners in the building that would host the signage have started the website www.stopthebillboard.org.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rapid City Puts Brakes on Digital Billboards

Rapid City is the latest community to enact a moratorium on digital billboards. The three month moratorium was initiated after billboard companies were taking advantage of a loophole in the current ordinance to convert traditional billboards to digital. Rapid City's goal is to reduce the number of billboards in the city.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Campaign billboards versus campaign yard signs

The Desert Sun raises an interesting issue as Rancho Mirage city council candidates battle over which type of sign is more environmentally friendly and less blighting... the traditional yard sign or the giant highway billboard?

The issue arose when a council candidate issued a challenge for everyone to run environmentally clean campaigns and to not despoil the beauty of the city with election signs all across town. However, the challenged candidates were quick to point out hypocrisy as the candidate has paid $4,000 to put up a large billboard on a highway in a town where billboards are illegal except for a few remaining "grandfathered" signs.

Now, I must admit that having public rights-of-way overrun with campaign signs can be a bit annoying, but make no doubt about it: billboards are environmentally unfriendly. In fact, a typical highway-sized billboard is 672 sq. ft. and almost always the poster gets dumped in the land fill. Further, most billboards are lit at night, wasting energy and polluting the night sky.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bridges and Billboards

One journalist referred to the world's growing proliferation of commercial outdoor ads as "the colonization of the public space."

Here in Sydney, majestic views of the Harbor Bridge, and towering office buildings are protected from the blight of towering billboards, eye-popping digital signage and giant commercial wallwraps. America has sadly failed in this regard and we need elected leaders who understand that beauty is an irreplaceable asset that is good for business. Change is inevitable. Ugliness is not.

Michigan and Minnesota Consider Statewide Digital Billboard Moratoria

The legislatures of Michigan and Minnesota are considering statewide moratoria on digital billboards. Minnesota's bill has a hearing today.

Existing studies make clear that digital signs distract motorists eyes for demonstrably unsafe periods of time. Indeed, it is only common sense that these extremely bright and vivid signs which rotate ad copy as often as every six seconds violate the well-established "two-second" rule of motorist distraction.

Abby Dart of Scenic Michigan calls digitals billboards "weapons of mass distraction" and notes, "if you are distracted and looking at the billboard, then you are not looking at the road."

Many communities and some states already have prohibited digital billboards; enacting a moratorium should be a no-brainer for public officials who believe it is their job to protect the public based upon the best scientific evidence.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sydney Australia - First Stop on the International Billboard Scan

Ed. note:  Scenic America President Mary Tracy is traveling around the world as part of the International Outdoor Advertising Scan, a tour organized by a division of the Federal Highway Administration.  She will be updating us on her findings frequently.  Check back here at the blog often, or at our Twitter feed.

I arrived in Sydney on Wednesday morning after a 20 hour plane ride. Passing through the international date line, I realized that Monday disappeared forever. If one has to lose a day I decided that Monday is a good choice. I photographed my first sign in Sydney, located in the entrance way of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Sydney is considered one of the most attractive cities on the earth, and I must agree.

More to come...

St. Louis Moves Closer to Digital Billboard Moratorium

After many neighborhood complaints over the city's only digital billboard and with a new sign readied to go up in a historic neighborhood, Saint Louis City officials move forward with a moratorium on digital billboards.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Put Digital Billboards on Hold

The Pocono Record is the voice of reason in its editorial calling for Pennsylvania to put digitals on hold for more safety study. Statewide moratoria on digital billboards are already under consideration in Michigan and Minnesota. A bill in Missouri would prohibit them all together.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

No Oscars for LA Supergraphics

Hoping to cash in on the Oscars by draping buildings on Hollywood Boulevard with illegal multi-story supergraphics, several owners instead were served with criminal warrants. By Saturday morning, the illegal signs had been removed.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Durham Residents Fight Effort to Allow Digital Billboards

Durham, NC has had a strong billboard law for over 25 years, but now neighborhood groups are leading the effort to fight off an attack by Big Billboard to allow existing "grandfathered" billboards that do not meet current standards to nevertheless be upgraded to digital technology and possibly even moved to new locations. A CVB poll of Durham residents last summer found residents favored keeping the existing law by a margin of 9 to 1. The Durham News reports that city leaders also are reluctant to weaken the effective billboard law that has enhanced Durham's attractiveness.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Electronic Billboards Up for Debate in Denver

Denver already has strict limits on digital signage, and is now moving for a vote that would prohibit them altogether. Scenic Colorado and neighborhood groups are leading the effort, and the Council plans a public hearing and vote on the matter on Monday. ABC-7 has more.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Drivers Can't Escape Digital Billboard Distraction

The New York Times covers the motorist distraction issue of digital billboards as part of its ongoing Driven to Distraction series.

Existing studies make it clear that digital signs are a distraction. As an exhaustive report conducted for the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials of prior studies concludes:

"Those [state and local officials] who think their job is to do what they can to enhance safety for the traveling public based upon the best available evidence now have, in our opinion, access to a strong and growing body of evidence, including evidence from industry funded research, that roadside digital advertising attract drivers' eyes away from the road for extended, demonstrably unsafe periods of time."

See more on digital distraction at Scenic America here.