In Paris, a single company is footing the bill in exchange for exclusive rights to the city’s more than 1,600 billboards.
That company is JCDecaux which now goes under the name of CBS Outdoor Media, and has a similar, albeit less lucrative deal with Vancouver involving bus shelters and street furniture.
“I’d love to see it so that we wouldn’t have to spend any public money on it, and it would be entirely self-supporting and somebody would look after it all for us, just like we do with the bus shelters,” said Ladner who has spoken to JCDecaux about expanding their operations in Vancouver to include bicycles.
“They’d love to do it, but they don’t know quite how we’d pay for it. They might come back and say you’re gonna have to let us build this many billboards and then we’d have some pretty tough decisions to make,” he said, pointing out that Vancouver doesn’t have a 1,600-billboard bargaining chip and people might not be so keen on having more giant ads around.
It seems to me we do have a chip: the 1,600 existing billboards. They make money because they have access to eyes travelling in the public realm. They make money because of the City’s acceptance of their intrusion.
In fact, most cities in Metro don’t allow billboards. The City at any point could make them illegal, and put in place a phase-out time after the current leases expire. Why not, instead, put in place a surcharge to fund the Velib program – a public benefit that justifies the private benefit?
After years of frustrated hopes of bringing bicycle schemes to Vancouver, Ladner has no stated preference for the model the city may adopt. With one stipulation: “I’d like to see something that works.”
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