Funding, Equity, Safety, Environmental Impact, and Effectiveness Are All in Question for Street Furniture Program Currently Being Rushed through City Council
On Tuesday, September 20, the Los Angeles City Council will review a contract for the Street Transit Amenities Program (STAP) with Tranzito/Vector. Although Scenic Los Angeles recognizes the critical importance of bringing shade and shelter to transit riders, the contract raises serious concerns that have yet to be addressed.
Safety: Digital Ads Are Designed to Distract.
At a time when pedestrian deaths are rising to frightening levels, the placement of digital displays at bus stops will only exacerbate distracted driving.
Lack of Funding: The City Doesn’t Have the Money to Pay for the STAP Program.
The CAO’s report makes clear that there are actually no guarantees as to how much revenue the program will produce, and yet the City will be required to spend $235 million to get STAP up and running but only has $6 million identified to pay for it. This is fiscally irresponsible. Costs and revenues are uncertain. The City has taken on the fiscal responsibility and duty to implement vast elements of the program (as well as the public automated toilet program for which there have not been sufficient funds identified).
Equity: The Neighborhoods That Need Shelter Most Will Get It Last.
Fiscal pressures apparently require that the early installations of transit shelters be done in affluent areas where the highest revenues will be generated. This repeats the injustices of the current program where transit riders in the hottest areas will have to wait for shelters. For how long?
Billboard Ordinance/ Sign Regulations: This Approval Will Allow Unlimited Advertising in the Public Rights-of-Way.
It appears that one of the main reasons the City is pushing STAP is to revise the LAMC to remove current protections against advertising structures on the PUBLIC right-of-way and to allow all manners of commercial advertising structures without limit: digital billboards, ad displays, and advertising kiosks and banners. The City claims to be helping transit riders, but it appears the true motivation for the program is to facilitate the generation of advertising revenues.
Aesthetics: There Are No Protections for Scenic Resources.
“Great Streets” are NOT defined by their advertising structures. Protection of the public rights-of-way from commercialization is a value worth protecting.
Sustainability: Light Pollution and Energy Consumption Will Add To Climate Impacts.
Energy conservation is a hallmark of a truly green city. The addition of thousands of digital structures consuming energy, polluting the night sky, and impacting the lives of the smaller creatures with whom we share the landscape does not meet best sustainability practices.
Privacy: Bus Shelters Capture Personal Data.
The City does not seem to understand the threat to personal privacy posed by wireless devices collecting cell phone data from passersby. The City claims that only “anonymous” data will be collected, but does not explain how it will verify this when a private company will actually be operating the system. Also, supposedly “anonymous” data can be used to target individuals through re-identification, a practice commonly used by data brokers.
Scenic Los Angeles argues that it would be best to revisit STAP from the very start. However, at the minimum, Council consideration should be postponed for at least six months so that critical issues and questions can be answered, changes made to reflect the problems identified, and a proper CEQA environmental review implemented. A 10-to-20-year contract deserves the full attention of all those involved and requires careful evaluation. A hurried approval to meet the Oct. 14 “last date to act” would represent both a terrible injustice and a glaring example of a lost opportunity to make a genuine contribution to improving the quality of life of all transit riders –an opportunity that may not
return for another decade.
What Can Residents Do Now?
1. SEND THE COUNCIL AN EMAIL: If you have not already submitted a public comment to the council files in questions, please do so NOW. Use our easy form, which will provide you with a prepared message, which you may also customize. Note that your email address and address will be included with your comment.
2. TESTIFY: We also urge you to sign up to speak at the meeting once the schedule is announced.
3. CALL: Call your Councilmember and tell them NOT to approve STAP. You can find their contact information here.
SPREAD THE WORD!
We need your help to put a stop to STAP. Share this message with your neighborhood listservs, Next Door community, and others who can help us flood our City officials’ mailboxes with the message that STAP is not good enough for Los Angeles.