Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Toronto's new info pillars block sidewalk with ads

Newly installed InfoToGo pillar at Bloor and Spadina
Yesterday, I mentioned AstralMedia's street furniture contract with the City of Toronto in relation to community message boards, but they also are responsible for installing what are called InfoToGo pillars around the city. These pillars are supposed to help with wayfinding, allowing tourists to orient themselves.  The new design, however, contains very little info. And by little info, I mean it has no info. Nada. Unless of course you count learning about FibeTV from Bell information.

The two largest sides of the pillar contain spots for advertising, while the skinny spine on the side is the part that is going to eventually contain some sort of map (right now it just says: Welcome to Toronto).

The advertisements encroaching into public space is one thing, but the awful and inconsiderate placement of these new pillars is another thing entirely. I first noticed this after a pillar was installed on Bloor and Spadina just outside of Fresh restaurant. The pillar takes up about one third of the sidewalk for no other purpose than to advertise. This is in a busy intersection that sees a lot of pedestrian traffic in the city, which could potentially create problems for people using assistive-mobility devices or those with strollers.

Street furniture placed in the public right of way, like benches, bus shelters, and bike racks, at least have a purpose. About 80% of the purpose of the info pillar is to display advertising, which makes this a poor use of the public right of way. If we have to have these things in Toronto, more thought and care needs to go into their placement and orientation on sidewalks to make sure they don't impede on pedestrian flow.

Compare this to Vancouver's info pillars, which the city began installing before the 2010 Olympics and continued afterward. As I wrote a few months ago, the vast majority of the pillars contain no advertising (ads are placed on one side of larger info pillars on some downtown commercial streets). The pillars are also skinny and oriented in such a way so they don't take up a lot of sidewalk space. Score one for Vancouver.

You can read more about these in this article by Steve Kupferman over at Torontoist.

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