The proposed ad contract will be reviewed this Wednesday, 10 a.m. at City Hall, Room 250, before the Budget and Finance Sub-Committee. Members of the public may express their concerns for up to three minutes during the public comment portion of the hearing (Agenda Item #3).
The proposed contract is expected to go onto the full Board of Supervisors for a vote at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 13 at 1 p.m.
While Muni is promised miniscule revenue, this contract will further degrade the passenger experience, our city’s scenic heritage, and possibly pedestrian safety. Additionally, the proposed five-year contract would double the number of “wraps” — buses and their windows fully wrapped with billboards.
Twelve-foot long digital billboards — with piercing images changing every eight seconds — would appear on the sides of 200 buses that would roll throughout all neighborhoods at all hours.
As Titan Outdoor tells potential advertisers, twelve-foot long, bus-side digitals are “astonishingly bright and loud.” We agree, and that’s why we are alarmed City Hall might permit such turbo-charged blight that possibly contributes to driver distraction.
Indignant commuters already complain of riding buses wrapped in billboards — even the windows are typically covered with ads for junk food and other consumer products. The Titan contract would double of the number of these so-called “wraps.” In the process, the Muni “brand” itself suffers, making our transit system less attractive to riders.
When we look at the percentages, the Titan deal is quantifiably bad business:
· Muni’s budget is now $945 million; the proposed Titan contract would provide about $5 million annually — enough to run Muni about two days per year.
· Wrapping of 30 buses in billboards will guarantee $375,000 annually — enough to operate Muni 3 hours, 29 minutes per year.
In the meantime, we all look at this visual noise full-time, every day of the year.
SF Beautiful has long fought against the excessive commercialization of the public realm, and again calls on City government to exit the advertising business. The voters are with you on this. Over the past 12 years, San Francisco voters have said “no” to billboards, not once, but four times.
Twice voters had said “no” new ads on public property, thus turning away potential revenues to public coffers. In effect, San Franciscans are telling City Hall, “You can’t pay us enough to look at anymore ads.”
That same electorate will soon be asked to pass a major general obligation to support Muni. The proposed Titan Outdoor contract — with its toxic effects upon our visual environment – will not help Muni meet its capital needs at the ballot box.
In contrast to taking the Titan Outdoor deal, San Francisco might gain some encouragement from Houston. That Texas metropolis also has a cash-strapped transit system, yet permits not one inch of advertising throughout its system; Honolulu, the same. Maybe San Francisco can learn something from these two cities: to respect the dignity of our passengers and to protect our City’s scenic values. It’s good business.