Miami Beach rejects digital screens on bus shelters — for now

Daybreak at the Belle Isle bus shelter. Video, anyone?

Daybreak at the Belle Isle bus shelter. Video, anyone?

Can you picture Miami Beach’s bus shelters featuring a big flat screen TV that changes that change images every eight seconds?

That’s what Clear Channel sought permission to do in Miami Beach with digital outdoor signs, a proposal the Design Review Board voted down last week. But the proposal is expected to resurface — perhaps at the City Commission — as Miami Beach continues to wrestle with proposals to put more advertising messages on public spaces.

The folks from DecoBikes started with no ads on their kiosks, then asked for ads and were turned down. A year later, they came back and received approval. Of course, the DecoBike ads spaces are smaller — and static.

Digital shelter in London.

Digital shelter in London.

The digital screen bus shelter idea has been done in some transit-intensive cities, such as San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C. and London. There, the digital displays feature advertising, but also are used to tell commuters when they can expect different buses or trains to arrive.

San Francisco began experimenting with digital screens in bus shelters in November 2010; they even allow people waiting for buses to play interactive games. The system architecture that supports the bus shelters links them together to allow touch-enabled social gaming possible across neighborhoods.

In Chicago, the shelters that house the screens also have LED boards that update bus riders with information on when buses will arrive. It’s the same situation in Washington D.C., where the city is replacing all its shelters with units that include digital screens under a 20-year agreement with Clear Channel.

Miami Beach’s bus shelters, carefully designed to fit with the city’s Art Deco and MIMO architecture, already include advertising from Clear Channel; that helped pay for the shelters city-wide.

In its new request, Clear Channel has asked “to replace the existing advertising panels with digital panels in order to show advertising which would change every eight seconds,” according to a Miami Beach staff report.

Clear Channel contends that the digital displays can provide a public good by providing commuter and tourist information, in addition to advertising. And they say it won’t be distracting to motorists passing by.

A company selling the ads on the panels, MatrixMedia services, describes them this way on its website:

Digital Bus Shelters or digital transit shelters offer 24-hour visibility to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. These displays are perfect for a street level marketing campaign since they are typically placed at high circulation locations. Digital transit displays hold multiple advertisers and rotates through messages throughout the day. The movement between advertisers will catch the eye of consumers as they are approaching the digital bus shelters.

The proposal will contribute to visual pollution and distract drivers, Peter Ehrlich told Belle Isle residents at a meeting last month. Ehrlich is part of Scenic Miami, a civic group that has been battling digital billboards and other sign proliferation around Miami-Dade County.

In its analysis of the request, Miami Beach planning staff found lots to quarrel with — the signs would require electrical power to the shelters, not just solar; they would not be restricted to residential neighborhoods; the possibility of driver distraction; the potential of the screens displaying full video.The staff recommended the requested be rejected.

On Nov. 20, Miami Beach’s Historic Preservation Board reviewed Clear Channel’s  and denied it. In addition, it passed a resolution opposing any form of digital advertising.

The Design Review Board’s denial came Feb. 6. But Clear Channel indicated they would be back. A push to the City Commission could be the next step.


8 responses to “Miami Beach rejects digital screens on bus shelters — for now

  1. Miami Beach has been stalwart in the protection of our community’s unique subtropical beauty from despoiling, distracting digital ads. Thanks for keeping us posted on the activities of Clear Channel.

    Barbara Bisno

  2. Please help us defeat Clear Channel’s application to convert solar powered bus stop shelters to LED billboards.

  3. Herb Frank,, Belle Isle Residents Association

    High quality decision by the Design Review Board and thanks to Scenic Miamii-Dade for its support.

  4. Unfortunate decision. As the beach continues to evolve this would spruce up the ugly bus shelters. I’ve seen these in California and they look great. Look at home many bus shelters now have outdated and in accurate displays.

  5. Would be very useful if used primarily for displaying bus arrival times, maps, tourist info and other things done in most of the developed world. If they have to share a screen with an ad periodically it’s worth it. The ad revenue could fund the GPS technology. This only works in the rest of the modern world, which SoBe NIMBY’s choose not to become a part of. Say, why not ban cars from Miami Beach and Belle Isle too then?

  6. No residents and no tourists are asking to be bombarded by ads changing every eight seconds. Who wants to be pummeled from LED billboards placed on bus stop shelters? The City of Miami Beach is absolutely correct to keep outdoor advertising from proliferating.

  7. If these digital ads were only visible to those waiting for a bus and provided bus arrival wait times (as in San Francisco), what’s the big deal? It would actually give bus riders something to look at while waiting for the bus.

  8. Residents must have noticed the two illegal LED billboards recently installed on the Children’s Museum on Watson Island. (October 2013) They were only installed to capture the attention of residents and tourists entering and exiting Miami Beach. Scenic Miami would like everyone to join us opposing visual pollution.

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