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Reining in the Info-less Info Pillars

Small steps in the fight against the too-large, too-bright additions to our streets.

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

Joining the ranks of rejected garbage bins with huge ad panels, transit shelters that don’t shelter, and push-pedal garbage bins that have been falling apart at an alarming rate, lately Torontonians have been confronted with a new form of failure in our street furniture: giant “InfoToGo” pillars.

Today though, there were a couple of very small signs of progress for those who are fighting the proliferation of these large, largely information-less pillars. The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, recognizing that these pillars are, well, giant monstrosities (they were more polite about it) which also create real impediments for pedestrians and blindspots for cyclists and drivers, passed two measures aimed at taming the pillars at least a tiny bit.

  • They instituted a requirement that City staff must review and approve installation plans before new pillars are put on the streets, so that they can check for obstructions and otherwise ensure the pillars meet location requirements.
  • They have asked City staff to look into whether the contract with Astral Media, who is responsible for these pillars, permits them to request design changes to the pillars; staff will report back this spring on any options council might have.

Councillors seemed by and large surprised when the pillar installations began—the design snuck through during a busy council meeting last year without much debate, and some have admitted to having second thoughts about their votes once presented with the big, bright signs in person.

The pillars are part of an overall contract the City has with Astral regarding street furniture, the goal of which is to generate ad revenue for both parties while providing some key pieces of infrastructure. Astral is required to provide 120 information pillars in total, and the City is expected to net approximately $1.2 million from them this year.

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