Uncool at any speed

Nuisance riders to be banned from RT, maybe.

Nuisance riders to be banned from RT, maybe.

Some cities are trying to ban them. The Sacramento City Council can’t get enough of them.

City rules prohibit the construction of new digital billboards anywhere in town. This is too bad for companies like Clear Channel Outdoor, which have been scoping out a few city-owned parcels for its potential to display the monolithic slabs of ads.

“The city’s sign code limits our ability to tap this potential,” said Tom Zeidner, senior project manager with the city’s Economic Development Department.

Sure, driving by the digital billboard at Cal Expo at night feels like trying to outrun the mothership. A newer sign near Sacramento State is easier on the eyes—but Bites wouldn’t call it an improvement to the view. (Each of these are on state property, not subject to city rules.)

Nonetheless, the Sacramento City Council decided last week to enter into exclusive negotiations with Clear Channel, to hammer out a lease deal allowing three new digital billboards onto city property. The staff will come back with a specific proposal within four months.

One site would be at the Mel Rapton Honda dealership next to the Haggin Oaks golf course, near Interstate 80 and Fulton Avenue, another at I-80 and Northgate Boulevard in North Natomas, and a third at I-5 near Richards Boulevard.

Clear Channel will be required to take down a yet-to-be-determined number of its regular billboards, in order to reduce commercial clutter.

And Zeidner said the company will use state-of-the-art LED technology, so the signs won’t be as ugly as the one at Cal Expo. Instead, they’ll be state-of-the-art ugly.

So what will the city get for selling off its airspace? Who knows? Zeidner wouldn’t reveal what the city is asking. The three static billboards owned by CBS Outdoor at Sutter’s Landing (I-80 at the old city landfill), are earning the city of Sacramento $1.25 million every three years.

But some cities have been less welcoming to the garish giants. Just last week, the city council in El Paso, Texas, voted to place a moratorium on the signs, pending a federal study on the safety risks they pose to easily distracted drivers. And at the beginning of August, the Los Angeles City Council approved an outright ban on new digital billboard erections.

These billboards will be part of our skyline for at least 25 years, but not one city council member expressed any real reservations about letting Clear Channel go at it. So, enjoy.

Anybody who rides Regional Transit knows that the biggest problem with riding the bus (aside from soaring fares and deep cuts to service) is the sometimes wacky, rude, scary and disgusting behavior of your fellow passengers.

Now that kind of nuisance behavior can get you banned from riding RT, under the agency’s new transit exclusion policy, nicknamed “You must abide to ride.”

It covers a host of sins as varied as interfering with the driver, doing graffiti, urinating or defecating on the bus or train or station floor, carrying an explosive or acid, or “engaging in boisterous or unruly behavior.”

But you have to be cited at least three times in a 60-day period in order to trigger the policy. That’s a lot of acid. And even then, you’re only eighty-sixed for one month. A second prohibition order brings a three-month ban, a third gets you kicked off the bus for six months. Anybody arrested or convicted of selling drugs, prostitution or lewd behavior can also be banned for 30 days to a year, depending on the seriousness of the crime.

Now, if “300 strikes and you’re out” strikes you as a bit draconian, the policy also allows for a sort of half ban which would let disabled and “transit dependent” scofflaws keep riding for “trips of necessity,” like going to work, school, shopping and doctor appointments. The new rules also say people can’t be excluded for behavior “determined to be expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.”

So is anybody really getting banned from riding RT?