Critics Attack as Los Angeles Metro Plans for Digital Billboards

Los Angeles could be getting a digital makeover in the not-so-distant future… and not everybody’s thrilled about it. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has officially proposed erecting up to 93 digital billboards to capitalize on billboard advertising opportunities. But now the national non-profit organization Scenic America is speaking out against the ambitious revenue-accruing plan. And they’ve got a list of reasons supporting them.

The Los Angeles Metro Plan for Digital Billboards

Photo credit: Envato

The digital billboards planned by the Los Angeles Metro would measure anywhere between 30 to 48 feet wide. Additionally, some would use both sides. Each digital pane would cycle through a series of eight graphics. Metro would sell seven of these cycles as billboard advertising, dividing the accrued revenue with the city. 

With seven of the digital billboards’ eight cycles devoted to advertising, where does that leave the final cycle? This brings us to the first of the benefits Los Angeles Metro is touting with the proposal. They have exclusive authority over the eighth cycle, which they say will be used for important traffic advisories. They hope that the digital billboards can be used to ease the city’s infamous traffic congestion. 

Additional Benefits of the New Billboards

Metro’s plan also accounts for older, outdated billboards. The new digital models would gradually replace the old static billboards. Currently, the proposal vows that at least 2 square feet of older billboard models would be removed each time one square foot of digital billboard is erected. Ultimately, the proposal highlights three primary benefits of the digital billboards:

  • Increased revenue to Los Angeles Metro without using taxpayer dollars
  • Fewer billboards despite more billboard advertising
  • Real-time traffic information to assist in traffic flow

The Rebound of Billboard Advertising

Photo credit: Envato

During the pandemic years, billboard advertising took a hit. However, it’s currently on the rebound. In fact, in 2022, out-of-home advertising was up to $7.93 billion from 2020’s $6.08 billion. The Los Angeles Metro estimates that within two decades, their digital billboard program could amass anywhere between $300 million to $500 million in income. And with those proceeds split down the middle between the city and Metro, that leaves a decent amount for transit improvements. 

The Cost of Beauty

But not everyone is sold on Metro’s rosy view of a digital horizon. Scenic America and their local chapter Scenic Los Angeles are voicing concerns. The first is obvious: an army of digital billboards could make the city uglier. Currently, Los Angeles Metro plans for these billboards to run the length of the city, including the Valley all the way down to Marina Del Rey. According to the environmental analysis Metro ordered, the illuminated billboards would “substantially” impact the city’s less urban scenery.

More Criticisms Levied at Digital Billboards

Critics have also pointed out the inherent dangers of distracting digital ads and their light pollution. According to the Los Angeles Metro environmental analysis, there exists no significant connection between driver safety and digital billboards. This analysis was authorized by the agency’s board which includes LA Mayor Karen Bass. Therefore, it’s expected to hold weight as being an unbiased assessment. 

Photo credit: Envato

But the new billboards could bring even more consequences. These include potential harm to the environment and even loss of value for properties in close proximity to their bright radiance. It’s enough to have inspired significant support for Scenic America’s case. 

The Future of Billboard Advertising in Los Angeles

Currently, the digital billboards Los Angeles Metro are requesting aren’t a certainty. City lawmakers are mulling over zoning changes that could prevent some of these new billboards from being erected. They’re also looking into restrictions for hours of operation; a relatively new hurdle for billboard advertising. Ultimately, the matter rests in the hands of the Los Angeles City Council. 

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The proposal to introduce digital billboards in Los Angeles sparks a debate on their impact and benefits. While there are concerns raised by organizations like Scenic America, it’s important to consider the potential advantages of digital billboards. One significant benefit highlighted in the proposal is the ability to use the digital billboards for important traffic advisories, aiming to alleviate the city’s notorious traffic congestion. By utilizing the dynamic nature of digital billboards, real-time traffic updates and alerts can be efficiently communicated to drivers, improving overall traffic management and enhancing public safety. Additionally, the gradual replacement of outdated static billboards with digital models offers the advantage of increased flexibility and customization in advertising, allowing for more engaging and targeted campaigns. It’s crucial to strike a balance between preserving the aesthetic appeal of the city and leveraging technology to optimize communication and advertising efforts for the benefit of the community.

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