Electronic Billboards to be Smaller, Dimmer, and Slower

Aug 7, 2012

Pittsburgh's e-billboards will be regulated on brightness, size, and advertising frequency, despite Lamar Advertising's legal efforts to halt a city ordinance. Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Joseph James has upheld the ordinance, and a local activist group is pleased.

After going through multiple drafts over several monts, Pittsburgh City Council passed legislation in December implementing limits on electronic billboards. Lamar claimed it was too many shifts to go through without repeating certain steps, such as a public hearing. The ad company's lawyers claimed without such procedures, the city tramped on state law.

However, Judge James ruled the changes made to the ordinance were not significant enough to repeat the process.

Electronic billboards in the city now will only be able to rotate ads every 30 seconds. Prior to the legislation, it was every 8 seconds. Mike Dawida, Executive Director for Scenic Pittsburgh, said electronic billboards' brightness and ad rotation causes a "great distraction for drivers."

"You get visually drawn to it," Dawida said.

He suggested that electronic billboards also lower property values for homeowners in close proximity.

"They're visually displeasing and not very helpful to the community as a whole," Dawida said.

Dawida noted the ordinance also requires billboards to be limited to less than 300 square feet.

"These billboards, especially the electronic billboards, have increasingly blocked views that are the treasure of Pittsburgh," Dawida said. "We increasingly are winning awards as a beautiful city with beautiful vistas, and billboards, if allowed to be unchecked, often times block those wonderful visions."