Public opinion sought on bus stop plan

Bill would allow ads in exchange for shelters

April 30, 2001|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Seeking community comment on a City Council bill that would allow outdoor advertising on new bus shelters, the Citizens Planning and Housing Association is holding a public meeting from 7 to 9 tonight at St. Mary's of Govans Church Hall at 5502 York Road.

The bill, which would establish a Mass Transit Administration program that would provide advertising space in return for new bus shelters built by the advertising industry, will be considered at 1 p.m. Wednesday by the council's Land Use and Planning Committee, chaired by 1st District Councilwoman Lois A. Garey.

The bill is seen by some as a free way to improve bus service in the city. For every five new bus shelters paid for by the advertising industry, one would be clear of advertising.

If it makes its way to Mayor Martin O'Malley's office, political observers say, the bill is likely to be signed, though the first bill O'Malley signed into law was a ban on new billboard construction. A main proponent is 5th District Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector.

But Garey said Friday that her mind was not made up. "I think there are some questions to be answered. For example, do businesses with bus stops have the right to say no thank you? How does it affect people with wheelchairs and strollers getting by on the sidewalk? There are people who would like to see some compromises," Garey said.

She added that new bus shelters should have a map and a schedule.

CPHA, which led a successful grassroots crusade against tobacco and liquor advertising a few years ago, does not officially oppose the bill because its members who are mass transit riders would like to see more shelters.

CPHA Executive Director Terri Turner said Friday that neighborhood views must be included in the dialogue because, she said, "the bill doesn't restrict itself to nonresidential areas, like commercial and industrial areas." She and Alfred F. Barry, CPHA's president, called for a compromise, suggesting that advertising be concentrated in downtown for a year as a trial run.

Or, they said, the industry could take down a billboard for every new bus stop advertisement, addressing the problem some see as visual blight.

Turner and Barry criticized an amendment to the bill, proposed by the planning department, which would designate major arteries for advertising. They argue that it includes too many residential corridors, such as Calvert Street and Cold Spring Lane.

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