"Street Furniture": Gimme Shelters
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“Street Furniture”: Gimme Shelters

One of the larger questions hanging over City staff’s recommendation of Astral for the “street furniture” contract has been how—given that their “street furniture” experience is limited to twenty-five ad columns in Toronto (see above) and three hundred twenty in Montreal (see after the jump)—did they manage to score higher in the “qualification” category than the other two bidders, both of which have carried out large-scale “coordinated street furniture” projects before?

The “Qualification Element” of the proposals was marked out of ten and made up 10% of the final score. The criteria are on page 68 of the Request for Proposals (RFP) [PDF].
We don’t know how Astral actually scored, because the evaluations are not public (shades of Union Station), but the staff report [PDF] states that, “it is noted that this proposal scored highest in all four evaluation categories” (the other three categories were “Design,” “Financial,” and “Technical, Functional, Maintenance,” weighted 40%, 30%, and 20%, respectively.)
On Friday afternoon, however, the Toronto Public Space Committee picked up some documents which they had been pursuing for over a year from the City Hall clerks’ office: early in April 2006, “street furniture” project staff held private meetings with each of the potential bidders for the contract in order to get their advice on how to shape the RFP. The minutes of those meetings—unlike those of all other meetings comprising the “consultations” for the project—were not made public. The TPSC filed a freedom of information request a year ago, and the Corporate Access and Privacy Office got back to them in July with a letter telling them that their request was denied in full. The TPSC then appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, whose office has been working hard on the file since August. Eventually, the IPC ordered certain notes released, and at 3:00 this past Friday, the clerks finally gave to the TPSC the minutes taken at Astral’s session [PDF].
2007_04_29MegaColonne.jpgAt that meeting, Michael Pohlmann—the man the TPSC outed as an Astral employee at one of the public consultations, when he went on about the greatness of the “INFOTOGO” pillars—claimed that Astral is responsible for Montreal’s bus shelters:

“We have done 21 years for the city of Montreal, where we provide bus shelters, mega information columns (320) city maps, street names (lit for visibility). I am not sure of how many transit shelters we have, I know we have some. I have been with the company only for 3 months. I am not aware of us having garbage containers.”

The thing is, we aren’t aware of Astral having any shelters in Montreal. Shelters are conspicuously absent from the outdoor advertising format and product lists on their websites.
And CBS, on its website, boasts that, “with more than 12,800 Transit Shelters, CBS Outdoor Canada offers the most extensive Transit Shelter coverage in Canada via exclusive advertising agreements with over 30 municipalities including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.” Documents on the website of the Soci&#233t&#233 de transport de Montr&#233al confirm that CBS/Viacom has an exclusive shelter contract with that city. (It’s possible that CBS’s Montreal contract is about to expire, as their Toronto one is, but we’ve seen nothing about Montreal going shopping for new “street furniture” recently.)
So could any Torontoist readers help us out? Does anyone happen to know anything about the shelters in Montreal?
UPDATE, STREETER-STYLE: City Hall rotunda, second floor. Monday, 1:30 p.m.
TPSC: Hey Mike, so does Astral operate any bus shelters?
Michael Pohlmann: (not happy) I’m not going to answer that.
TPSC: Because, I mean, you told staff about a year ago that you did, so I was wondering if that was the case?
Pohlmann: I said what I said.
TPSC: Alright then. Thanks.
Torontoist contributor Jonathan Goldsbie is a member of the Toronto Public Space Committee. Images of Astral’s “MegaColumn” in Toronto’s Metro Square and a “M&#233gaColonne” in Montreal from their websites.