By Dan Murphy
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Office of Outside Advertising is now considering a proposal to install electronic billboards at MBTA stations citywide.
The billboards would be located near station entrances and exits, and measure 42 inches long, 56 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep. They would transmit information on train departure and arrival times, as well as paid advertising spots, proceeds from which would benefit the MBTA.
Proposed locations include Back Bay station at 144 Dartmouth St.; Kenmore station at Beacon and Raleigh streets at Commonwealth Avenue; Prudential station at 120 Huntington Ave.; Broadway station at 11 West Broadway; Haymarket station at Haymarket Square and Cross Street; and North Station at 132 Causeway St.
The MBTA withdrew applications to install two additional billboards at Park Street station at Tremont and Winter streets and another at Downtown Crossing station at Summer and Winter streets amid protests to the advertising program from elected officials and other community representatives.
At a Nov. 19 hearing before the advertising office, State Rep. Jay Livingstone and City Councilor Josh Zakim objected to the plan.
“I hope that the Office of Outdoor Advertising reaches its decision and doesn’t install any billboards,” Livingstone said. “They’re inconsistent with the historic nature of the neighborhoods, and I’m pleased that my colleagues have joined me in asking MassDot to have more of a public process in making these decisions.”
Zakim said he believes that the downside of the program would far outweigh any potential benefits.
“The ‘T’ obviously needs the money, but billboards located near public parks are visual pollution,” Zakim said. “I’d like to see them find other ways to address their revenue shortfall.”
Representatives from the Beacon Hill Civic Association and the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay in attendance at the hearing also objected to the proposed billboards.
“We do not think it’s appropriate to have electronic billboards on the streets of Boston, especially downtown near our parks and historic sites,” wrote Keeta Gilmore, chair of the Beacon Hill civic group. “The proposed placement of these billboards will have a significant negative impact our streetscape and are unsightly for all who come to Boston to enjoy the rich history that this city offers.”
The Office of Outside Advertising is expected to reach a decision on the proposed billboards next month.