VANCOUVER — I’ve been checking out some of the street furniture that Vancouver has to offer and one of the first things that caught my attention was the treatment of bus shelters — in different neighbourhoods around the city they’re painted a specific local colour. Along slightly bohemian Commercial Drive the shelters are maroon (photo below); in the Mount Pleasant area, things are aqua-green (photo above); downtown is navy blue and in Strathcona everything is gold. In most of the outlying suburban areas the default colour scheme is metallic grey (photo below), much like Toronto’s shelters and bins.
As you can see in the maroon-coloured shelter, the design is different than the other two examples. City planners told me the more angular design received poor feedback: the roof didn’t block rain blowing down from the front side; and the glass on the non-advertising side was too thin and did not block rain coming from that angle. The new design was created and it does seem to be an improvement, both functionally and aesthetically. It was also neat to stumble upon some of the older shelter designs from the early 1980s (photo at right, click to enlarge). As an aside, it’s interesting to note the similarities between Toronto’s upcoming bus shelters and the original Vancouver design.
Vancouver’s on-street garbage and recycling bins adhere to the designated colour scheme as well (click on photos for a larger version). Something that surprised me was the lack of recycling bins — nearly all of the bins around the city seemed to mix waste and recycling. The only bins that were clearly indicated as recycling-only were grey-metallic bins found near bus shelters, and even those did not provide an option for all the other kinds of waste. For such an eco-conscious city, it seemed odd to me. Though, it may have something to do with Greater Vancouver operating an incinerator or two.
While I’m no fan of Toronto’s incoming street furniture designs, we have to try and find ways to get the most of out the situation. Residents will have an opportunity to give feedback on the designs during the implementation stages of the contract — hopefully we can wrangle the best kind of functionality and aesthetics out of Astral and the City. But something as simple as applying colour to the proposed designs could be a good start — colour can add a vibrancy to the street and set the mood or tone of a surrounding area. Parts of Toronto that are historic in nature (St. Lawrence and Corktown) could have black shelters and bins to mimic the wrought-iron lamp posts. Maybe Chinatown can be red or green.
all photos by Matthew Blackett