- Jennifer Scripps, Jamee Jolly, Linda McMahon, and Lily Weiss


In recent years, Dallas has endeavored to improve the walkability of our city. Leaders of our most populous urban districts, including Uptown, downtown, the Arts District and others have worked tirelessly to make their communities more walkable, safe for pedestrians and welcoming to improve the quality of life and the long-term economic strategy in each area.

A proposal by the city of Dallas to add 150 digital kiosks to sidewalks throughout the city threatens this pursuit. At 8 feet tall and almost 4 feet wide, the digital kiosks displaying ads would be enormous obstructions to our essential pathways.

Our sidewalks are the lifeblood of urbanity; they are real-life marketing for the desirability of our areas and the demonstration of our vibrant, thriving and connected communities. Adding large obstructions to our walkways will not only create frustration for our current residents and tenants, but also hinder our sidewalks’ ability to showcase that connected, energetic feel that attracts additional visitors, future residents and businesses looking to locate where professionals want to live.

The city’s main driver in pursuing these digital kiosks is the potential revenue from the advertising dollars earned on the kiosks. Even if 75 digital kiosks are installed in Dallas, the resulting revenue received by the city would likely be less than $2 million per year, a very modest amount in relation to Dallas’ annual budget of $4.6 billion. The costs in terms of lost space and visual nuisance would far outweigh any financial benefit to the city. Not to mention the administrative costs and staff time that would be incurred by the city, especially when they continue to struggle with understaffing already.

Additionally, walkability increases home values, so there is a potential negative impact to property tax revenue if kiosks harm that walkability.

Safety is top of mind for all of us. Preventing collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians is paramount in the urban core. Yet these bulky structures would not only impede pedestrian traffic, but also would distract and reduce visibility for drivers. There is no doubt that as they serve their primary purpose, which is to scroll numerous high-resolution multicolor ads per minute, this visual assault could endanger pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders.

Furthermore, digital kiosks are being positioned as real-time information and way-finding sources. Yet 97% of Americans have a cellphone, according to the Pew Research Center.

Cellphones provide the same apps and services to each individual in possession of one, which is virtually everyone on our streets. Relying on a physical structure for access to maps and information no longer has its place in today’s technological world.

Also, the allowable features of “detached” monument signs are strictly regulated by the city’s Special Provision Sign Districts, or SPSDs. The proposed digital kiosks are incompatible with the city’s own stated goals in some areas. For example, in Uptown the logical limitations that have been put in place by the SPSDs to keep the neighborhood less visually chaotic and more walkable will directly conflict with placement of digital kiosks on our walkways. Why should the city be allowed to break its own rules?

Lastly, we can look to the experience of other cities to see how placement of these digital kiosks has been received by residents. Even a cursory Google search shows dozens of references to cities that regret the invasion of digital kiosks. In Houston, digital kiosks have made news for blocking sideway traffic and angering pedestrians. Any extra time and resources would be better spent on increasing the amenities that actually attract residents and businesses, such as adding public art to improve urban placemaking and quality of life.

The city of Dallas will hold the second of two public meetings on April 29 to get feedback on this significant public policy. If city leaders heed the input of area organizations, property owners and members of the public, as well as note the negative experiences of other cities, they will decline to move forward with this proposal. The potential small revenue generation is not worth the decreased safety and connectivity issues associated with the installation of these kiosks. Our areas cannot afford a setback to all the work we have done to become more walkable, safe and welcoming.