Park Ridge, Ill., Poised to Add Electronic Bus Arrival Signs

The Chicago suburb’s ban on electronic message board signs will not apply to certain signs installed at bus and train stops if aldermen formally approve a change they tentatively supported on Oct. 7.

by Jennifer Johnson, Pioneer Press Newspapers / October 11, 2019

(TNS) — The ban by Park Ridge, Ill., on electronic message board signs will not apply to certain signs installed at bus and train stops if aldermen formally approve a change they tentatively supported on Oct. 7.

The City Council voted 6-1 in favor of amendments to the city’s zoning ordinance that will allow Pace, CTA and Metra to install "digital, real-time arrival signs" at bus stops and train stations. The measure is expected to return to the council for a final vote on Oct. 21.

Jim Brown, director of community preservation and development for the city of Park Ridge, said the amendments would allow electronic message signs “in a very limited manner” — specifically for the Regional Transportation Authority. The ordinance states that the signs must contain only schedule and service status information, and the signs would not be allowed to flash or have blinking or chasing lights, Brown said.

The proposal to amend the zoning ordinance originated due to interest from Pace in placing bus tracker signs, announcing the arrival time of the next bus, at two bus stops in the city: Across the street from the Uptown Metra station and at Maine South High School.

“The goal is to deploy these electronic signs for our customers to view real time information of when their next bus is set to arrive at the stop,” said Steven Andrews, a Pace representative.

In the case of the proposed location on Summit Avenue, the sign would face the outside of the bus shelter, he said.

Not every Pace bus shelter will be equipped with a sign, Andrews said.

“These are expensive signs, so we don’t want to deploy more than we have to,” he explained.

The ordinance sets required dimensions for the signs to ensure they are “not too large, not distracting and not detrimental to community character, but still useful and readable,” a memo to the City Council from Brown said.

Sixth Ward Ald. Marc Mazzuca voted against allowing certain electronic message signs for bus and train stops, arguing that they will have a minimal public benefit.

“It is nearly 2020 and we have this technology in a smartphone,” Mazzuca said. “The type of electronic signs we are talking about are a solution from the mid-1980s. We have such better technology that is not nearly as intrusive.”

Andrews said not all riders have access to Pace’s online technology and that in surveys, riders indicated they wanted better access to route information.

“This is one way we’re able to do that,” he said.

Resident Joan Sandrik, who served on a city task force that updated Park Ridge’s sign ordinance between 2012 and 2014 and recommended electronic signs be allowed, pointed out that such signs already exist outside the city’s Metra stations.

“This is 2019, not 1819,” she said. “This seems like a no-brainer to me. It just blows my mind that we have spent this amount of time discussing this.”

The Sign Task Force had proposed electronic message signs be allowed in Park Ridge with special approval from the planning and zoning commission and City Council, but this provision was later removed from the ordinance.

At the time, several business leaders, Maine Township High School District 207 and the Park Ridge Park District expressed support for such signs.

©2019 Pioneer Press Newspapers (Suburban Chicago, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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