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cityscape

The Information-Free Info Pillar

Why the City's new "InfoToGo" pillars contain no actual info.

Side view of the information pillars; this one is near the southwest corner of King and Jarvis.

Over the course of the past few weeks, new sidewalk accoutrements have been installed on many downtown streets. They’re called “InfoToGo pillars,” but they contain very little information—at least, very little pertaining to the city.

Every single pillar is supposed to feature a neighbourhood map, right on the skinny part that faces the sidewalk. The maps were part of a deal struck between the City and Astral Media Outdoor (the company that provides the City’s street furniture in exchange for advertising rights) during the summer.

And yet at the moment, all the pillars offer the public are advertisements for the services of a certain large telecommunications company whose name rhymes with “smell.”

The side of the pillar intended to be informative.

The maps are the “info” in InfoToGo. So where are they? Fiona Chapman, acting manager of street furniture for the City, says they’re coming. But she doesn’t know exactly when.

“I find it regrettable that the pillars are up without the actual wayfinding elements,” Chapman told us. The maps, she said, still need to be printed and installed. “Those should be done by November 21,” she said. But, she added, “I’m not convinced I’ll see all of them by then.”

Public-space advocates are decrying the presence of the pillars. In an article last week, Spacing called them not “really a pillar at all, but rather a billboard whose primary focus is the ad space.”

The pillars have also been criticized for their tendency to crowd out pedestrians and cyclists. They loom over space that could otherwise be used for walking, and in some cases Astral’s crews are removing bike rings during installation. Chapman told us her section has been working with Astral to reposition pillars that impede walking. (The City is paying for the repositioning.) The bike rings, she said, will be replaced.

Council approved the pillars in July as substitutes for an earlier, failed InfoToGo design. Astral is obligated to provide 120 of them. Twenty of them won’t have advertisements. Chapman said the City is working with local Business Improvement Areas to install even more ad-free pillars—ideally, one for every pillar that does have the ads. Those wouldn’t be covered by Astral, and would have to come at least partly at the City’s expense.

Comments

  • http://bart.whahay.net Bartek

    I think the worst one (note, all of them are horrid) is the one right by George Brown college on the King St. North sidewalk. Literally reduces the sidewalk in half in what is an already crowded pedestrian space.

  • http://twitter.com/Sabocat Paul Hollingsworth

    In Rob’s Toronto respect for taxpayers means paying for the advertising of private companies to the detriment of those latte swilling downtown pedestrians and cyclists.

  • DRYDRY

    It’s amazing that not a single city moron noticed that these pieces if sh*t didn’t have any maps on them.

    Oh wait – it’s Toronto. I take that back

  • http://twitter.com/Mattclare Matt Clare

    I would almost be OK with this if it were the “Money2GoWhereTheVehicleRegFeeWent” pillar program. It’s the crass blatant facade of public utility wrapped around an advertising revenue source that’s the most offensive part.

  • http://bikingtoronto.com/duncan Duncan’sCityRide

    Even once the maps are installed, these will still be extremely useless. There is nothing about these pillars that suggests you’ll find information on them. The “info” side is so skinny that the maps will need to be very compressed, making them unreadable, as I highly doubt that each pillar will have unique maps detailing the immediate area. While the previous design was even larger and now nixed (there’s one at Christie and Bloor) it at least looked like an information booth.

    • Anonymous

      My understanding is that the maps will be customized for different areas of the city.

      • http://bikingtoronto.com/duncan Duncan’sCityRide

        Sadly, I still remain pessimistic over what type of information will be available on these billboards. This City has a poor reputation when it comes to way-finding information. From non-existent maps in the PATH system to TTC area maps that highlight cell-phone stores over destinations like the CN Tower, this city simply doesn’t know what information to share or how to do so. If anything, I hope a few BIAs can post business location maps (like the one on a Roncesvalles transit shelter) on the broad side of these pillars.

  • http://twitter.com/mikeykolberg Mikey Kolberg

    In there current state these things are abysmal. But perhaps there is a fix that wouldn’t involve throwing them all in the garbage. I saw an interesting comment on the Spacing post that showed a board of similar size in LA I believe that was placed on a 45 degree angle to the street. The road side had an ad (a necessary evil to pay for needed wayfinding) and the sidewalk side featured maps, etc for pedestrians. Sitting at 45 degrees or so allowed people to maneuver around them a little easier.

    You might lose half the ad revenue but it would be better than leaving them as they are.

    Oh, and and public space advocates, as much as it plays against our preferred narrative we gotta pin this one (Astral’s sweetheart street furniture deal) on Miller, not Ford.

    • Nick

      Although the current “Info” pillar replacement was authorized by the current council, not Miller’s, http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2011.PW5.5. And although the deal may have been sweetheart, at least we no longer have those super fugly excuses for garbage bins/seats/ad holders that were eyesores in many of the former boroughs/cities that now make up Toronto.

      • http://twitter.com/mark_dowling Mark Dowling

        Instead we now have superfugly plastic bins which don’t work half the time.

  • http://twitter.com/mark_dowling Mark Dowling

    Much as though I despite the Fordiban regime, the Miller administration signed that contract with Astral and there were plenty of ways the City got hosed before he ever left office, and the hits just keep on coming.

  • (Off)SideWalk

    This blows my mind. These things are like walls in the middle of the sidewalk. And this comes on the heels of a 2 year review and resultant rewriting of the sign bylaws? What a disgrace.

  • Anonymous

    Cool, so since this is city property it is also PUBLIC property. The communities in which these things are located should put up their own fliers and posters related to their community events. Why do we need a corporation to give us city info? Don’t the residents in an area know what’s best??

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    1. Print an ad-sized map.
    2. Shrink the Smell™ ad to “info”-size, also print.
    3. Paste both up.

  • Earl

    There’s one of these that has been up in Allen Gardens for over a year… I’m saddened to see it proliferate.

  • t.o.eastwest

    I was wondering about the same thing as well. I walked out of work one day ( MaRS building on college and university ) an they had a big one with nothing on it. You would think that they would at least get the content ready before they install them …..

  • Bubba

    Welcome to Toronto where you can’t see the sidewalks or where your going!

  • Anonymous

    They aren’t pillars, they’re walls.

    Remember those awful billboards with garbage cans hidden at the narrow ends from a few years ago? Same thing. They’re designed and positioned to block the sidewalk.

  • http://twitter.com/Mattclare Matt Clare

    Must everything installed in Toronto’s streets be 1/2 conceived? It’s only the marketers that ever follow-through on these initiatives. It’s glass bus shelters, news stands and giant garbage bins over again.

  • gordbtoronto

    So — not only will we have 120 sidewalk billboards that we don’t want — but we’ll have an additional 120 “no-ad” pillars gracing our limited public space, since the original billboards don’t actually provide their intended function. Sounds like a plan that only Toronto could come up with.

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile, in London

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bryan-Cook/507835870 Bryan Cook

    I hate these things but I don’t understand why everyone complains about the garbage bins, The “Always broken plastic bins” always work for me and the old billbins were not too bad.

    My only gripe is that we lost the fun “Feed Me” ladybug bins.

  • Brian

    *This* is an info-pillar (well a “Legible London”):
    http://www.trico-ve.co.uk/upload/images/image83.jpg

  • Don B Christie

    How many of these have now been removed? The one outside George Brown College is gone – only its 2″ big steel bolts remain to trip us on our way into school or work.