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Opinion: Our Transit Agency Shouldn’t Be in the Business of Endangering Drivers

Metrolinx wants to allow eight new giant electronic billboards—right along the 401 and 427. How is an agency that's supposed to make travel better issuing such an absurd proposal?

UPDATE: July 11, 2014, 1:45 PM On Thursday city council debated a proposal, backed by regional transit agency Metrolinx, to install massive new electronic billboards along the 401 and 427. Staff had raised serious concerns about the safety issues involved and recommended against the billboards. Despite this, councillors overturned the staff report, voting 22-14 in favour of the signs.

Public space activist Dave Meslin explains just why this is such a concern—and in particular, why we should be worried that a transportation agency would advance a proposal that endangers drivers.

Photo by Seekdes from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

Photo by Seekdes from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Metrolinx, the provincial agency responsible for developing transportation in and around Toronto, is by definition in charge of helping us all move around more effectively. Which is why it is particularly crazy—a special kind of ridiculous—that the people who are supposed to be the caretakers of our travel want to allow eight massive commercial digital billboards, at four separate locations, along the 401 and 427.

While all levels of government are making efforts to reduce driver distraction, the Metrolinx plan actually aims to increase distraction—and make money off that distraction, to boot.

The billboards violate both municipal and provincial regulations designed to protect public spaces and ensure road safety. Provincial rules, for instance, do not allow any signs this large within 400 meters of any highway, and do not allow digital signs to change messages rapidly. (They even prohibit blinking Christmas lights anywhere near the highway.) And the Toronto sign bylaw doesn’t allow for digital advertising at all expect in special sign districts (like Yonge-Dundas Square). Metrolinx is trying to get exemptions from all of these rules, despite the large body of evidence ([PDF], [PDF], [PDF], [PDF]) that digital commercial signage is a safety hazard to drivers.

Not only would these digital signs endanger drivers, they will also affect the quality of life in the adjacent neighbourhoods. While the billboard application suggests that the signs will not be visible from any surrounding residential communities, a quick tour of the proposed sites finds the opposite to be true: these billboards will be in clear view of front yards, backyards, condo terraces, parks, bus stops, and several high-rise rental buildings. Two locations have brand new condo towers being built within close proximity to the proposed signs.

The dimensions of one of the proposed new electronic billboards, relative to the current maximum allowable size and height. At committee, councillors voted to cut the size of the billboards in half, but keep the height the same.

At first, as this proposal made its way through the bureaucratic process, things unfolded as they should have. The City’s current sign bylaw does not allow any digital signage on the 401 or 427, so Metrolinx had to apply for what’s called a “sign variance,” which would essentially allow them to violate the bylaw’s restrictions. City staff reviewed Metrolinx’s application, and issued a report [PDF] recommending against all eight billboards. That report went to the Sign Variance Committee (a volunteer body comprised of appointed citizens), which likewise rejected all eight signs.

Rather than reconsidering the merits of their proposal, or giving thought to the negative impacts on safety and visual pollution, Metrolinx kept pushing for the bylaw exemption. Metrolinx’s corporate partner, Allvision, lobbied councillors to approve the applications. What a strange scenario: to have a provincial body in charge of transportation indirectly lobbying municipal politicians, asking them to ignore the advice of their own municipal staff on a transportation safety issue.

The billboard lobbyists are very good at what they do. They are also very persistent. Last year, a Toronto Star analysis revealed that the top lobbyists at City Hall were not representing casino companies, developers, or the island airport; the top lobbyists at City Hall are billboard firms. It’s almost impossible for volunteer citizens to compete with this kind of organised commercial effort.

On June 19, the politicians who sit on council’s planning and growth management committee voted to “delet[e] the staff recommendations” from the report, recommending instead that city council as a whole approve the new billboards. Council will vote on the issue this week.

How were the councillors convinced to support such a backwards plan?

  • Money. The proposed billboards will contribute a few million dollars to Metrolinx’s annual operating budget. This is, of course, a drop in the bucket for a multi-billion dollar agency, but it still works as an effective argument for politicians who are eagerly looking for new ways to fund services in an anti-tax political climate.
  • Amber Alerts. Billboard companies love to talk about amber alerts. With their new signs, the lives of children will be saved! Of course, MTO already has text-based changeable electronic signs that can post amber alerts, vehicle descriptions, license plate numbers, and so on.
  • Trade-offs. Allvision has offered to remove about 40 existing billboards in exchange for the eight new ones. Of course, the old ones are much smaller, aren’t digital, and aren’t nearly as effective or distracting as the electronic boards they want to swap in. More importantly, some of these old signs don’t have proper permits in the first place, and would have had to be removed anyway as they eroded and aged.
  • Brightness. The industry is always claiming that their newest signs are less bright than their older ones, but an LED screen is an LED screen. Even if they agree to lower light levels now, they are likely to raise the brightness later. We’ve seen this over and over at City Hall: councillors enter into a long-term arrangement for outdoor advertising in exchange for revenue, and within a few short years the company comes back claiming that they need to renegotiate the contract in order to remain “competitive” with other companies. The bottom line is, these companies want the brightest signs possible because brightness is distracting, and therefore effective.
  • Inevitability. The lobbyists have been successful at convincing councillors that digital signage is just part of the unstoppable onward march of technology. Vinyl records were replaced by 8-tracks, then cassette tapes, then CDs and finally MP3s. Likewise, paper billboards simply must be transformed into digital signs. The implication is that voting against digital signage exposes yourself as a dinosaur, unwilling to embrace the present or future. Of course, this is all besides the point. We aren’t slaves to technology: we choose what tools to implement, and how to go about it. That we now have the capacity to have brighter, faster-changing signs doesn’t mean that we should put them by the side of highways with the express purpose of grabbing the attention of people—drivers—who need to be focused on the road.
  • Safety. The billboard industry insists that digital billboards are harmless. But while advertising companies claim that digital signage will not dangerously distract drivers from the road, at the same time they eagerly promote these signs to potential advertisers by highlighting just how eye-catching they are. Metrolinx and Allvision have been referencing reports by consultants hired by the City of Toronto ([PDF] and [PDF]), to prove that digital billboards are safe. But just this week, those conclusions were described as “seriously inadequate and often erroneous” by a traffic safety expert who reviewed those reports. Almost every study that has been conducted shows a direct causal relationship between digital advertising and driver distraction. And the number one cause of automobile collisions isn’t alcohol or speeding: it’s distraction.
  • Blackouts. The current proposal calls for the signage to be turned off between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. That sounds nice, except for the fact that the sun sets as early as 5 p.m. in the winter, meaning these billboards will still be flashing for six hours of the evening.
  • Neighbourhoods. Because the Metrolinx application contains misleading information about visual sight lines and the impact these signs will have on local residents, without really going out and seeing it for yourself (which most councillors don’t do) their application can sound quite harmless.
  • How did Metrolinx—a provincial agency tasked with building roads and public transit—get mixed up with a commercial billboard company? The answer, as it so often is: money. The billboard project is part of Metrolinx’s ongoing effort to create “non-fare” revenue, which includes parking fees at station lots, leasing commercial space at stations, or in this case, monetizing driver distraction.

    I’m a big fan of Metrolinx. We need to expand our transit system, and we need to find ways to fund their next major set of transit projects, The Big Move. But making money by selling the attention span of drivers to an advertising company is a bad way to go about it. Our public spaces are precious. And with over 2,000 deaths on Canadian roads each year, we can’t afford to introduce intentional distractions. Most importantly, we need to ensure that policy at City Hall is being driven not by lobbyists but by some refreshingly old-fashioned things: facts, expert advice, and the public interest.

    Dave Meslin is a longtime civic activist and the co-founder of Scenic Toronto.


  • Piero

    The solution is to start suing the government any time you get into an accident along the 401 or the Gardiner where signs cause distractions and possibly in some people short epileptic reactions. It’s just a matter of time. I know I would definitely sue if involved in an accident near one of these signs.

    • torontothegreat

      Should you sue cell phone company’s for getting into an accident while fiddling with your phone?

      • Squintz

        You have the option of not having a cell phone in your sight line, the same cannot be said for these billboards.

        • torontothegreat

          If your attention is so easily distracted, you shouldn’t have a driver’s license.

          Let me ask you another way, if the shiny lights of a police siren cause you to get into an accident, do you sue the City?

          • Squintz

            That’s exactly the same thing right? We’re talking about giant flashing screens directly in your line of sight on highways that serve little to no beneficial purpose. Are you actually in support of these billboards or are you just trying to be a contrarian?

          • torontothegreat

            Giant flashing lights in your line of sight – Sirens, what are they and how do they work?

            Just because I think this fake outrage is hilarious, doesn’t mean I support anything, “that’s exactly the same thing right?”. The only thing I support is you losing your driver’s license if you are so easily distracted – you have no business being on the road.

          • Squintz

            How big do you think emergency lights are? Also if you are so concerned with the rules of the road, you would recognize that when you see flashing emergency lights you are supposed to slow down and move a lane over from them to prevent accidents and mitigate the distraction. Are you suggesting we do the same around these eyesores?

          • torontothegreat

            When they are directly in front of you, they are larger than the billboard – perspective, how does it work?

            You are “supposed” to move a lane over, what if you can’t? What if the lights are so blinding that you Duke and Luke your car off the overpass?

            You’re conveniently avoiding the initial question.

          • Squintz

            Fake outrage, troll harder! No lights smash them all!

          • torontothegreat


            Holy hell, you need to calm the hyberbole.

            Also learning words and their meanings is a good start. You’re no better than Doug Ford calling people racist for disagreeing with him.

            Fake outrage, indeed.

          • Squintz

            You posted a good 20 comments on the last story about this issue and you look to be trying to break that personal best with this one. Either you own a company that makes these billboards or you are indeed trying to cause a disruption and provoke a heated argument.

          • torontothegreat

            Engaging in public discourse on a public website makes me the owner of a billboard company now?


            Seriously, get your head checked.

          • Squintz

            You seem a bit obsessed with this issue and seem to be getting quite heated over people being distracted, just trying to figure out why.

          • torontothegreat

            Could the same not be said about you? Do you have some stake in not allowing these billboards on the highway? Are you trying to purchase the land?

            That’s how ridiculous you sound.

            Obsessed? I regularly post on this site. Just stop with the ad hominem’s already, good god.

          • Squintz

            I know you do, but this issue seems evoke a special type of outrage that isn’t reflected in your typical posts.

          • torontothegreat

            Probably because I think it’s an absolutely ridiculous argument to make about outdoor advertising. There are many reasons to hate outdoor advertising but IMHO repeating NIMBY style diatribes isn’t one of them.

          • Squintz

            Then give us some of those instead of just constantly saying you don’t think they are distracting with no proof to support that point.

          • torontothegreat

            I did, and was met with you raging on me and calling me a troll (amongst other names)

            I’m not making some outrageous FUD that these are evil and bad and dangerous and “think of the children”. That onus is on the author to prove a point that is against logical thinking.

            Logic is: If you’re THAT easily distracted you shouldn’t drive. Torontoist, Dave or yourself hasn’t addressed that in any meaningful way – which is revealing to say the least.

          • Squintz

            You chose not to respond to any of the other points and dismissed the points you didn’t disprove by saying they were nimby or just wrong in your opinion. The logic is also that these are bill boards produced to draw your attention to them, hence being distracting. Have you proven your point that they aren’t distracting? I can’t seem to find that evidence anywhere.

          • torontothegreat

            Radio is meant to draw your attention
            Turn signals are meant to draw your attention
            Flashing constructions signs are meant to draw your attention
            Green P parking signs are meant to draw your attention
            Information signage is meant to draw your attention
            Sirens are meant to draw your attention
            Dashboard lights are meant to draw your attention
            Brake lights are meant to draw your attention

          • Squintz

            apples and oranges. You stated that these billboards are not distracting. Pointing to other things that are distracting (a couple of which aren’t visual and the others which are minor and less intrusive in comparison) does not prove your point.

          • torontothegreat

            You stated that these billboards are not distracting

            Did I? Please provide a citation.

            What I clearly said, is: “If you’re THAT easily distracted you shouldn’t drive.”

            My point stands.

          • Squintz

            My mistake, but that really is a bit of straw man is it not? If it is human nature to have your attention drawn towards a flashing sign, that is designed to draw your attention, and you are driving 100 kmh, you only need to look away for a moment to cause a collision. So if your point is that no one who gets distracted by something that is supposed to be distracting should be driving than maybe we need to rethink this automobile thing so we can have light up billboards?

          • torontothegreat

            How is it a straw man?

            If it is human nature to grow old, something by earth’s design that draws your senses away from your mind, do we rethink this automobile thing so we can have people with dulled senses drive on our roads?

          • Squintz

            If it is distracting and our brains are wired to be distracted by it, should we address the distraction or switch the debate to personal responsbility?
            You have already acknowledged that age is a limiting factor in driving and thus a reason to eventually prevent licensing, so I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove with that statement.

          • torontothegreat

            It’s not a matter of distraction *cough* excuse *cough* it is 100% a matter of personal responsibility.

          • Squintz

            Whose responsibility though? These companies aren’t going to crumble if they don’t get light up billboards in these specific locations. If it is an instinct to glance, look, however you want to describe it, at these light up boards how can we possibly all be personally responsible when we inevitable look at them?

          • torontothegreat

            It doesn’t underscore the fact that many things cause drivers to be distracted, so why are we so outraged by billboards?

            /me thinks the author hates billboards, not distracted drivers.

          • Squintz

            Indeed and many of these distractions are regulated in an attempt to limit their use. Thank you for finally admitting that you have a bone to pick with Meslin.

          • torontothegreat

            I have no “bone to pick” with Dave Meslin (what does that even mean?). An incredible leap of logic and not true in the slightest. Thanks for continuing to attack me ad hominem, really underscores your points (or lack thereof).

          • Squintz

            It means you have something to argue with someone. You admit it yourself, that you think Meslin hates billboards, you don’t really support these billboards you just want to make sure that everyone knows what you think about Meslin’s argument.

          • torontothegreat

            you just want to make sure that everyone knows what you think about Meslin’s argument.

            Because a dissenting opinion with valid counter arguments is the same as having an axe to grind with someone personally?

            Man oh man… Just stop.

          • Squintz

            It’s much more than that. You’ve been arguing the same points pretty intensely in two different pieces separated by 2.5 years. Why don’t you stop?

          • torontothegreat

            So I read an article at 2 different times on the same website that I frequent multiple times daily on the same subject and have the same opinion and that means I hate Dave Meslin?

            P.S. The “other” article was by a different author — oops!

          • Squintz

            I didn’t say hate, I said you wanted to argue about a specific point with Meslin, bone to pick remember? Different author, still an unreasonably heated debate over something that you really don’t seem to care that much about.

          • torontothegreat

            I had the same opinion on a related article 2.5 years ago by a totally different author, which to you, translates that I have a bone to pick with Dave Meslin… Okay…

            Just stop. Really.

          • Squintz

            I meant Meslin today, Bayliss previously. Why does distraction vs personal responsibility matter so much to you? Why is it so unbelievable to think that people might want to restrict certain things in their urban environment? This has been my main question and you have never answered it.

          • torontothegreat

            Thank you for finally admitting that you have a bone to pick with Meslin.

            ME: But the authors aren’t the same

            Realizing how wrong you are and having the integrity to admit it, oh wait, nevermind:

            I meant Meslin today, Bayliss previously.

            So really:

            Just stop. Really.

          • Squintz

            A specific argument is the key point of the definition. Saying Meslin in that case was in reference to the current article we are discussing. I was not referencing the previous article in that statement, but your statement that you felt Meslin hates billboards and isn’t concerned about safety.

          • torontothegreat

            but your opinion that you felt Meslin hates billboards

            There, fixed that for you. Pretty sure I qualified that as an “opinion” when I stated: /methinks

            But hey, you seem to be misquoting me, lying about what I’m saying and being generally wrong multiple times already, what’s once more for good measure, right mate?

            Anyways, this is the last time I’ll respond to you, this conversation is going nowhere.

          • Squintz

            Admitting that I misunderstood a point you made once is hardly multiple times or lying about what you said. Also you voicing an opinion would be a statement would it not?
            Have a good day.

          • Jeriko Krasavić

            advertisements give the city money.

    • Jeriko Krasavić

      No one is forcing to look at the billboard, you can ignore it.

      Keep your eyes straight and keep on driving.

      • tomwest

        The whole point of this billboards is to attract your attention. It’s difficult it ignore 75 m² of bright flashing lights carefulld angled to make sure you see it.
        The province bans flashing Christmas lights close to the highway because of the potential distraction – these are waaaaaay more distracting.

  • mwerneburg

    Good lord. So we hear that Sugar Beach umbrellas are bad, but this is supposed to be a good idea. Quite a hell-scape future envisioned for this city, something out of Idiocracy.

  • mytwocentsworth

    Absolute idiocy. I wonder what the Toronto Police and OPP think ..?????

  • Peter Saunders

    There may be plenty of legit reasons to want to stop these electronic billboards, but every study and statistic so far–including those by traffic safety specialists–has shown they do not endanger drivers. Complain about the lack of democracy, sure, but not the lack of safety. Accidents don’t increase when digital billboards are added to a streetscape.

    • torontothegreat


    • dave meslin

      Hey Peter!

      You’re 100% wrong. The data is clear. Check out the linked PDFs in the article, and/or read this piece I wrote last week:

      And/or check out this page:

      • torontothegreat

        The first PDF is some scribbling (literally) on paper. The second PDF introduces itself as such:

        “The literature survey shows that both early and recent studies found a negative impact of advertising

        billboards on safety. However, a critical analysis of the studies reveals that many studies were not

        methodologically adequate. Recent studies were more rigorous, and while the findings were also in

        the same direction, the results were often not statistically significant.”

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Not “every study”. Sweden halted their digital billboard installation expansion and then ordered them all removed following a Swedish-German study, published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, found drivers were more distracted by digital billboards than any previous study had concluded. (A number of those previous studies were sponsored by outdoor advertising companies; one study released by the US FHWA is widely believed to be flawed.)

      It was the Swedish traffic authority’s opinion that the duration of the distraction (more than two seconds) endangered drivers, given that 80% of traffic accidents happen within three seconds of a driver being distracted.

      • Peter Saunders

        This is the point, though. Yes, billboards distract drivers, but no, they do not endanger them; at least, not according to any accident statistics comparing sites with billboards to those without.

        • tyrannosaurus_rek

          To be endangered is to be put at risk, regardless of how likely it is that risk will be realized. All studies and traffic authorities agree distraction increases the risk of accidents (again, 80% of accidents happen within three seconds of the driver being distracted). Sweden concluded the risk was too high, given the duration of the distraction these billboards cause, regardless of whatever collision statistics they had.

          Digital billboards may not be responsible for proportionately more accidents than any other kind of distraction (for sake of argument), but they are still a source of distraction and therefore they do cause accidents the same as any other source. So shouldn’t we curtail them – and all other sources – to the best of our ability? Why do we need collisions near billboards to increase significantly to build a case against them, as if the existing number of collisions (and resulting injuries and fatalities) is acceptable?

          I also find it questionable that a government agency would advocate for increasing the source of roadside distractions while other arms of the government campaign against, and punish, distracted driving.

    • tomwest

      I don’t think “streetscape” is the right term for the 427 and 401. “Multi-lane highway with 100km/hr speed limit” would be a better term.

    • Nick
  • torontothegreat

    Remember when Torontoist tried to spark outrage over this issue before?

    Where’s all the dead bodies Torontoist?

    • Squintz

      There are 8 points highlighted and yet you focus on the only one that serves your argument. No one is saying its a guaranteed death sentence, but they are distracting and Metrolinx is trying to circumvent the province’s own regulation to put them up. Enough with the hyperbole. How about you address any of the reasonable arguments for why this is a bad idea?

      • torontothegreat

        So your saying that they are so distracting. Well shouldn’t stats prove that correct with that article from 2011?

        FUD. Torontoist loves it when it comes to advertising, you’re simply sucked in to their link-bait.

        • Squintz

          Nope I said there are many reasons the signs aren’t appropriate and you haven’t addressed any of them except one. Disagreeing with something and suggesting we stick within our policies and regulations is not fake outrage, it’s the way policy should be produced. If you have such a low view of Torontoist why are you here commenting?

          • torontothegreat

            And I disagree with this particular article. So what? You haven’t presented anything worthwhile, unless your speaking about what TORONTOIST has put forward – and clearly I disagree.

            In my opinion it’s fake outrage. If you don’t like it why are you here replying?

          • Squintz

            You seem to be personally invested in raging against Meslin, anyone who opposes LED billboards, the Torontoist or all three. Really you haven’t proven that they aren’t distracting or given any argument as to why they should installed or would be beneficial AT ALL. So it seems sort of ironic to see you say I haven’t presented anything worthwhile when your entire argument consists of “I don’t think they’re distracting” and “if you get distracted by things that are intended to draw your attention you shouldn’t be allowed to drive.”
            In my opinion you have been trolling on this issue every time it has come up and presented nothing of value. Oh and by the way can you please stop saying your when you mean *you’re* its rather distracting.

          • torontothegreat

            “You seem to be personally invested in raging against Meslin, anyone who opposes LED billboards”

            LOLWUTF? What a weak argument ad hominem.

            “Really you haven’t proven that they aren’t distracting”

            I’m not saying they are, the onus is on people making this claim to prove they ARE distracting, not the other way around.

            Torontoist claimed they would be distracting and a public safety concern in 2011 – Nothing written has come to fruition – Isnt’ that proof enough?

            “In my opinion you have been trolling on this issue every time it has come up and presented nothing of value.”

            By your own defintion, you’re also a troll. Seriously, get a grip. Just because I’m vocal about how stupid I find the “outrage” back in 2011 and now in 2014 does not a troll make. Having an opinion about something isn’t the same as trolling, how lazy of you to resort to name calling.

            “Oh and by the way can you please stop saying your when you mean *you’re* its rather distracting”

            Seriously? No really, seriously? Wow.

          • Squintz

            I’m not provoking this, I’m simply participating. You want to talk about ad hominems? You’re implying that anyone who thinks these are distracting is an idiot who shouldn’t drive. Really that is the entire thrust of your argument. If you were simply “engaging in a public discourse” I think you would address the other points of the argument.
            You seem to take this whole issue extremely personally, looking at the debate over the course of over 2.5 years! You are making the same points you made in Dec. 2011 and you think I’m unreasonable for questioning your motivation?

          • torontothegreat

            “You’re implying that anyone who thinks these are distracting is an idiot who shouldn’t drive. ”

            Idiot? Sorry you’re injecting words into my opinion that don’t belong.

            So the only way you can counter my point is to lie about what my point is…


          • Squintz

            When did you address my points about the multiple other reasons to not install these boards? That’s what I thought.
            If you are saying these people are easily distracted by flashing lights and that their capacity is inferior enough that they should be prevented from driving what does that imply? Intelligence?

          • torontothegreat

            What points? I fail to see any that you’ve made. I asked you to clarify what you meant about that previously but you were too busy attacking me to respond. Still waiting for that response by the way…

            “If you are saying these people are easily distracted by flashing lights and that their capacity is inferior enough that they should be prevented from driving what does that imply?”

            What a leap of logic, profound really :P

            If something causes someone to not be able to operate a vehicle properly it has nothing to do with intelligence, it’s simply an issue as to whether that driver is competent enough to drive – like old people…

          • Squintz

            It’s the easily distracted part I’m talking about. There is a well known trope that people easily distracted by flashing or shiny objects are stupid, if you weren’t implying that, my apologies, but I hardly think it’s a ridiculous thing to misunderstand when you’re implying that people’s faculties might be so limited they pose a threat to their own safety.
            Some of the points include, having regulations against it that we have to circumvent, creating a terrible environment for the surrounding neighbourhoods, the fact that the revenue they will generate is fairly small in the grand scheme of things etc. Maybe you should read the article again.

          • torontothegreat

            I wasn’t implying that at all. I appreciate you acknowledging that and I apologize if that’s how I came off.

            Some of the points include, having regulations against it that we have to circumvent, creating a terrible environment for the surrounding neighbourhoods, the fact that the revenue they will generate is fairly small in the grand scheme of things etc. Maybe you should read the article again.

            It all sounds very NIMBY #whitewhine to me. These are (IMHO) not very strong points to make against this.

            Exemptions aren’t necessarily circumvention and people and companies are exempt ALL the time over a PLETHORA of “regulations” and “laws”

            Surrounding neighbourhoods? Move to Collingwood. NIMBY’s get no love here.

            Thanks I’ve read the article already (you keep claiming these are YOUR points). Could you please stop with the snark and ad hominem’s please?

            Revenue, while insignificant, don’t pennies add up to dollars? In the grand scheme of things. The same argument could be made about the VRT, I mean it only generated $64 million annually. That’s pretty “insignificant” to a $9.4 billion budget.

            Saying more income is “insignificant” is a naive way to look at making money.

          • Squintz

            You are dishonestly telling me there is only 1 argument being made, if you have read the argument you wouldn’t need me to regurgitate the others that are broken down in the article. My apologies for the snark, I felt I was on the receiving end of some myself.
            When I say significant, it is in reference to the cost and the benefit. Is the revenue gathered by these boards significantly more than boards that don’t light up? Will properties surrounded be devalued by the light pollution and how does the revenue generated compare to other forms of advertising?
            You have not proven that these signs are not distracting except to say that you seem to have an ability that other humans apparently do not to avoid looking at an object that is intended and designed to draw your attention to it.
            Writing off all the arguments with the wave of the NIMBY wand and telling people to move to Collingwood is the definition of ad hominem. You are not addressing their concerns, simply telling them that they have no value and don’t need to be addressed.

          • torontothegreat

            I have a concern that my neighbours food smell is devaluing my house, don’t hand wave that away address my concern!

            When said points are so utterly ridiculous, sometimes they aren’t worth addressing the concerns of.

            Is the revenue gathered by these boards significantly more than boards that don’t light up?

            With my limited knowledge of ad sales, the answer would be yes.

            Will properties surrounded be devalued by the light pollution

            Were the neighbours of Sam The Record man? Are the neighbourhoods near the CN Tower? Rogers Centre? Harbourfront?

            you seem to have an ability that other humans apparently do not to avoid looking at an object that is intended and designed to draw your attention to it.

            That’s skirting self-responsibility, many things “draw our attention”.

          • Squintz

            But how many of those things draw our attention in this way and to this degree? Straw man again. You have been comparing different things but trying to say they have the same result. The things you also point out such as turn signals, brake lights and emergency lights have an essential role that I don’t think anyone would argue these billboards provide.
            Similar to the comparison to the building signs and the CN tower you are using dishonest comparisons to make your point. These billboards are slightly comparable in the sense that they are things that light up, but the way they operate, the light levels and the positioning are different. You also haven’t proven anything, you simply posit your theory and without proof, assert that all things being equal, billboards won’t reduce property values.
            If your answer is yes to ad revenue, my next question would be, by how much and can you provide a citation.
            Your argument that this debate was simply fake outrage and a singular NIMBY point is being exposed and instead of acknowledging that you simply insult the points and try to dismiss them with bait and switches and straw men.
            We have municipal bylaws to govern the environments in which we live, that isn’t NIMBYism that is an accepted limitation and regulation to allow people to live in a reasonable environment. You can disagree with that but don’t pretend there is no reason for it or people affected by it who take exception are just skirting self-responsibility or any of the other platitudes you have used to dismiss concerns.

          • torontothegreat

            But how many of those things draw our attention in this way and to this degree?

            Umm… All of them? You can’t be honestly telling me that those examples I have cited aren’t meant to draw our attention away to the fullest degree.

            I’m not concerned with the “role” advertising plays in this, that’s a different discussion altogether (and personally I think this article should be focused on that). What I’m speaking about is not their role, but rather their impact. The purpose of the CN tower lights, Sam the Record Man sign, the Sky Lights at the Roger’s centre ALL are equal in their purpose to a billboard – to draw eyes.

            you simply posit your theory and without proof

            Where is the smoking gun in this article? You can’t have it both ways.

          • Squintz

            There are a number of major differences. The location and proximity to highways, the timing with which the lights change (or don’t change in the case of the rogers centre sign), the brightness, what they are communicating, a passive 2 word sign is in no way comparable to a billboard flashing different images and advertisements that are constantly changing.
            You say the argument is wrong and yet you don’t prove how it is wrong. Who wants things both ways?

          • torontothegreat

            Bright flashing lights are different than bright flashing lights! Excuse me while I go yell at some clouds.

          • Squintz

            Bright flashing lights in the 90′s on Yonge compared to an LED sign board with constantly switching images beside a 400 series highway?
            Again what were you saying about ad hominem attacks and snark.

          • torontothegreat

            Bright flashing lights in the 90′s on Yonge compared to an LED sign board with constantly switching images beside a 400 series highway?

            CN tower lights, Sam the Record Man sign, the Sky Lights at the Roger’s centre

            So 2 of my examples are qualified, but yea, sam the record man totally disproves what I had to say?

            Disingenuous much?

          • Squintz

            The static Rogers sign is not the same obviously, the skylights also do not change every 6 seconds like the boards will. Much like the skydom, the CN tower lights are not as bright and farther away from the highway than the billboards would be. They are also not flashing text or images. Different, you are the one who is being disingenuous. You are also a huge hypocrite, quit whining about snark, you apparently think you’re being civil, but read what you have written throughout this thread. You’re a condescending sarcastic jerk in more than a couple of your posts. If you can’t take it don’t dish it out.

          • torontothegreat

            You are also a huge hypocrite, quit whining about snark

            Says the guy crying about my alleged “snarky-ness” to a person who actually hasn’t complained ONCE about snark.

            You’re a condescending sarcastic jerk

            The irony is delicious!

            If you can’t take it don’t dish it out.

            Says the guy raging…


    • OgtheDim

      This is listed as a guest column.

      i.e. Its not editorial.

      • torontothegreat

        Editors decide what content appears on the site, no?

        • OgtheDim

          Editors decide content. That does not mean said content, when provided by a guest, has to fit into a companies belief system.

          i.e. Ur beef is with the writer. Ur stuff about Torontoist undermines your points.

          • torontothegreat

            Torontoist has a history of publishing this exact opinion on this exact issue. I don’t think it’s a stretch of logic to assume that Torontoist editor’s agree with Dave on this issue.

            I agree with Dave on a shit ton of his opinions and work, just not this one.

          • OgtheDim

            Yeah, its a stretch, IMHO.

          • torontothegreat

            I appreciate your humble opinion and your civility.

  • torontothegreat

    And the number one cause of automobile collisions isn’t alcohol or speeding: it’s distraction.

    One of the most disingenuous things I’ve read by Torontoist on this subject so far. From the link:


    3. Drunk Driving
    2. Speeding
    1. Distracted Driving

    Distracted driving continues to be the number one leading cause of car accidents in America. Talking on the phone, texting, eating, reading, grooming, and talking are just some of the ways drivers get distracted behind the wheel. Drivers who use a hand-held device are 4 times more likely to get into a car accident than drivers that pay attention to the road ahead. Individuals who text message while driving are 23 times more likely to get into an accident. Do not risk your safety or your life. Put everything down and pay attention to the road ahead. It’s the single most important thing you can do today to reduce your risk of getting into a car accident.

    Notice what ISN’T considered distracting? It also clearly disqualifies your assertion “pay attention to the road ahead”

    • OgtheDim

      If distracted driving is bad, then adding another distraction is bad.

      Not having signage listed as a distraction does not make signage a non-distraction.

      And, to be blunt, who cares if it doesn’t happen a thousand times – once is too much.

      • torontothegreat

        My point is, that the article linked to this page, which mentions NOTHING about billboards. If this was SUCH a widespread problem that isn’t anything but FUD, wouldn’t they list it as an issue?

        • OgtheDim

          Ur missing the point of the article:

          DISTRACTION is BAD

          Not x distraction is bad, but y is OK.

          Are these signs potential distractions?

          Yes or No?

          If Yes, then they shouldn’t be allowed.

          • torontothegreat

            I haven’t missed the point of anything, I just disagree with it.
            Virtually anything environmental is a “potential distraction” to drivers. Wind farms could be argued in the same way – and that would be equally ridiculous. If as a driver I can’t keep my eyes on the road because of billboards or wind farms, then where does the onus fall?

  • torontothegreat

    I keep looking for an article by Dave Meslin about the lights that were added to the CN Tower and how they are a public safety concern to drivers, that the light pollution causes neighbourhoods to crumble, that the value they add is so insignificant they shouldn’t be there and that the city’s electrical grid will fall to it’s knees because of them…

    Can’t find it, anyone have a link?

    • Squintz

      What was that you said to me about snark?

      • torontothegreat

        Is it not a valid question?

        If someone makes a claim about the same thing, but conveniently focuses our attention away to a topic that they personally don’t like, isn’t that like the definition of disingenuous?

        • Squintz

          I didn’t say it was invalid, I just said you’re being snarky, the same thing you accused me of. Can you not word your question without the attitude if you’re going to chastise me for doing the same thing?

          • torontothegreat

            I didn’t mean to give off any “attitude”, I apologize if I did something to make you believe that.

          • nomoremicrophones

            I’d like both of you to take a time out.

          • vampchick21


  • Jeriko Krasavić

    not in front of you, technically on the side of the front of you is the highway.