A state representative representing Dorchester has filed legislation to ensure public input into the digital billboard conversion process by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). According to the Dorchester Reporter:
“As the MBTA and residents butt heads over the possible conversion of existing MBTA billboards to digital displays and the proposed installations of smaller digital screens by MBTA stations, legislation is moving forward to ensure that any digitization plans will be subject to local approval processes.
State Rep. Dan Hunt of Dorchester filed a bill last September that would change a few things about how the T manages its billboards. Even if the displays are on state land, the legislation would require the MBTA or its representatives to come before the community and have a discussion about local benefits, whether that be in donations to neighborhood groups or the removal of existing billboards in compensation… the Office of Outdoor Advertising reviews such proposals, but the T, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the state highway division are not subject to local zoning.”
Reportedly, the MBTA has outsourced management of 125 roadside billboards on its properties to Outfront Media, in a six-month contract. According to a March 1st press release, Outfront began work for the MBTA on March 4th.
This seems to be part of a strategic move by Outfront into the greater Boston area. It completed in July, 2017 an an asset swap with Independent Outdoor Network, by acquiring digital billboards in the Boston metro area in exchange for static billboards in four non-metro market clusters:
“The acquired assets include 16 digital billboard displays, including two displays in-development, and two static billboard displays… The divested assets include several hundred static displays in predominantly non-metro areas of Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and South Carolina.”
In September of 2017, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) awarded Outfront a long-term contract to manage its, advertising and communications concession agreements for subway, commuter rail and buses, including billboards. That contract included modernizing 500 billboards, and the deployment, starting in 2018, of 50,000 digital displays across the MTA transit system of 472 subway stations, 6,407 subway cars, 247 commuter rail stations, 2,429 commuter rail cars, and 1,255 buses.
A status and text of proposed legislation, H 3910, is available at the Massachusetts Legislature site.