The winner of the street furniture contract was announced this morning — Astral Media.
While I found Astral’s designs to be the least offensive of the submissions, there still are some serious flaws that the City and the mayor’s powerful executive committee needs to sort out.
• The RFP that was issued in 2006 directed bidders to not go over the current level of advertising found on our streets. The square footage the bidders worked from (198,000 sq. feet) was only an estimation on the city’s part. But (and this is a big BUT), if you add up the actual numbers supplied in the back of the RFP, you’ll find that our current level of advertising on street furniture is only 178,000 sq. feet. That means there will be an 11% increase in ads, which flies in the face of city council’s directive (keeps ad content below current level), and contradicts City Hall’s mantra that the co-ordinated street furniture contract would decrease the amount of ad space by 14%. This means the RFP is seriously flawed and needs to be re-issued again. Read more on Torontoist and Eye Daily.
• Astral Media is in non-compliance with the city. The outdoor advertising company has numerous illegal signs, according to Illegalsigns.ca. The city has a policy that states, “To protect the interests of the taxpayers of the City of Toronto by reserving the right to the City to reject an offer to supply goods and/or services through the City’s procurement processes where the City determines that the person making the offer is in any way indebted to the City and in its sole discretion is of the opinion that it is in the City’s best interests that the offer be rejected.” I cannot see how City Council or the executive committee can approve the winner of this RFP while Astral Media and the other bidders continue to flout the city’s bylaws and ignore requests to remove illegal billboards. If the executive committee rubber stamps the winner, then the city is saying it is okay to strike deals with scofflaws.
• One of the most common talking points during the street furniture debate has been the idea that this contract will help “clean up the clutter on our streets.” This is an absolute fabrication now that we see the submissions. If the city was serious about un-cluttering our streets, specific things could have been done, such as: combine the horrible monster garbage bin design into one side of a bus shelter, thus removing cans from the street; there is no great outcry for maps in the downtown core, yet they info pillars will proliferate from 25 (current level) to a minimum of 120. If we needed to put maps around downtown, we could easily find a home for them on our current pieces of infrastructure like those metallic traffic signal boxes — the city of Victoria, BC has done this successfully.
• In the Toronto Public Space Committee‘s media release today, the street furniture program completely contradicts the city’s climate change plans. The TPSC states: “Under this plan, every square foot of advertising currently on a garbage bin or bench would be transferred to a bus shelter or an “information pillar,” more than doubling the amount of illuminated, eye-level advertising that is perpendicular to the sidewalk and making a mockery of Toronto’s environmental ambitions. Shelters need illumination, but regular shelter lights (such as those used in shelters that don’t have advertising) can be powered with solar energy; when ads need to be illuminated, however, the only option is to hook the shelters up to the grid. With “street furniture coordination” Toronto had the opportunity to not only decrease advertising but also to conserve massive amounts of energy — but instead the City wants to double the power being used solely to light up ads. The new program proposes 4,652 more bus shelters ads’ worth of lighting!”
The TPSC, Illegalsigns.ca, and Spacing will be holding a joint-press conference later this week to discuss these matters further with members of the media in hopes that we can convince public officials and the mayor’s executive committee to consider these four points of contention. We also encourage members of the public to sign up to make a deputation (email firstname.lastname@example.org ) to the executive committee on Monday April 30th.