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California state legislators have approved a pilot program allowing Santa Monica's Big Blue Buses to be adorned with digital bus ads, complete with scrolling text and images.
The plan is intended to help the bus system raise about $8 million--a sum that would allow it to keep transportation fees static.
Despite the potential promise of cheaper rides, some community members are less than amused, arguing that the ads are simply another traffic hazard.
Traveling from the coast all the way into Downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica buses go through some of the heaviest traffic in the area.
Members of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight believe that adding more eye-level distractions is dangerous, particularly when ads are bright and ever-changing, reports The Lookout.
However, the paper reports that the bill limits brightness and requires ads to remain static while buses drive on freeways. Additionally, supporters note that ad space can be used for public announcements and emergency information.
With billboards covering most of Los Angeles, one would think that the addition of digital bus ads wouldn't have that much of an effect on driver safety.
However, Santa Monica itself doesn't allow digital billboards, and Los Angeles has successfully banned new and mobile billboards.
While these bans are primarily motivated by a desire to curb visual blight, they are also intended to increase driver safety. Despite this, a few studies have concluded that digital billboards do not contribute to traffic accidents.
Whether the same can be said for digital bus ads is unclear, but just like with digital billboards, a pilot program is the only way to find out.