Newspaper Boxes

Newspaper Boxes

Q: How many newspaper vending boxes are on DC sidewalks?

A: No one knows. They spring up like toadstools.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has published a proposed rulemaking which will regulate the placement and maintenance of publisher boxes on public space. Among other things it requires registration of boxes, imposes a registration fee for them, requires their maintenance, and mandates removal of abandoned newspaper boxes.

There are no existing DC regulations for these streetscape features, and problems have been resolved by a complaint-driven ad hoc process. DDOT Public Space staffers hear about abandoned boxes from angry neighbors, and wheelchair users file ADA complaints when new boxes block the sidewalk. The proposed regs aim at creating a more pro-active situation and a better pedestrian environment. And we’ll even find out how many news vending boxes there are out there.

The new rules won’t apply to news boxes on Metro property, but perhaps the DC contingent on the Metro Board will suggest similar guidelines. These kinds of provisions often trigger First Amendment concerns, but the Supreme Court has ruled them kosher.

The Proposed Rulemaking for Publisher Boxes public comment period ends on September 23rd.

UPDATE:

“Boxed In: D.C. Moves To Regulate Sidewalk Newspaper Boxes,” Martin Austermuhle, WAMU News

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Photo by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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