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State Okays Digital Ads on Santa Monica's Buses  

By Lookout Staff

July 25, 2011 – A bill allowing digital advertising on Santa Monica's Big Blue Buses cleared the State legislature last week.

The pilot program, sponsored by Assemblymember Julia Brownley, would help the City's cash-strapped transit system raise as much as $8 million without raising fares.

The idea has stirred up controversy from those who believe the scrolling ads will endanger drivers.

"I recognize the importance of public transit, but this is a very bad idea," Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, told Pasadena radio station KPCC last week. "It really raises very serious questions about traffic hazards."

Opponents to the plan say drivers will be distracted by bright, changing ads, but Brownley has said that the bill specifically limits the brightness of the ads.

The ads can be designed to change only when the buses are stopped, she told KPCC, and the bill calls for the ads remain still when the buses enter freeways. Otherwise, the ads would be programmed to change every three seconds.

The buses' digital ad space could be used for public service ads, and for emergency information, Brownley added.

Hathaway wasn't sold. He told KPCC that to do a pilot program before a safety study is completed “is completely backwards.”

Big Blue Bus officials have told the press that before the ads go up, the public will get a chance to weigh in on the plan. It still has to be cleared by the City Council, they say.

And before that, the bill has to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown later this summer.

If the ads get the city's go-ahead, they will go up on some 30 of the fleet's 200 buses, Brownley said.

Santa Monica would join New York and Chicago in trying out the digital bus ads.


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