Representatives of a company that makes digital rooftop advertising for taxi and rideshare employees sounded off Monday on a Los Angeles City Council committee’s support for a motion to ban the devices, saying such a move would impact the pocketbooks of drivers who are already struggling to make ends meet.
“We are extremely disappointed that the committee did not move to support our city’s struggling rideshare and taxi drivers and protect them from the negative repercussions of this ill-advised motion,” Firefly spokesman Pete Gould said. “This motion will take away extra income from hundreds of hard-working Angelenos who currently depend on it and further unfairly harm taxi drivers as they try to earn a living in today’s bleak market.”
Councilman Bob Blumenfield introduced the motion to ban the devices, which use digital LED technology to display changeable illuminated advertising.
“It was not too long ago that the Valley was blanketed with unhitched mobile billboards advertising everything you can imagine, and I am proud to have helped rid our communities of that blight,” Blumenfield said recently. “Constituents would come up to me all the time and ask what can we do to get rid of those awful mobile billboards? We learned then that some companies will go to extreme lengths to circumvent regulations.”
Firefly, which installs the rooftop devices, was singled out in Blumenfield’s motion, which said Uber and Lyft drivers who agree to mount the digital screens on their vehicles may be paid an average of $300 monthly.
In November, the City Attorney’s Office informed Firefly that installation and operation of its devices is illegal under state and city law. Blumenfield’s office alleges the company disregarded the warning and continues to place the devices on ridehailing vehicles operating in the city.
The Transportation Committee approved the motion last week, although it also directed city staff to produce a report on potentially creating a pilot program for the devices.
Blumenfield’s office said state law authorizes vehicle digital advertising only as part of a pilot program on buses operated by the Antelope Valley Transit Authority, the city of Santa Monica, and UC Irvine, and a representative of the city attorney’s office agreed with that assessment during the Transportation Committee meeting.
Blumenfield’s motion would direct the city attorney to prepare and present a draft ordinance that would include requesting that the Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles Police Department take enforcement action against drivers operating vehicles with the devices within the city.