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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The TTC is at it again…

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Sigh. The marketing geek in me keeps holding out for the TTC to come up with smart and effective self-promotion and marketing campaigns. Their new campaign to stop litter is another in a long-string of disappointing outreach posters.

Litter is a big concern for transit riders. If you look at the early footage of Toronto’s subway stations, they were as clean as your dinner plate. But as a city (and culture) we have somehow allowed our trash-tolerance to slip to embarrassing levels. I know litter is high-up on the list of concerns whenever the TTC surveys its riders.

But these new posters do not possess a level of cleverness that could actually engage a litterbug — playing the guilt card and “you wouldn’t do this at home” is lazy and out of touch with reality. There are loads and loads of people who have newspapers and food wrappers splayed across their livingroom. And it’s quite possible they are the same people willing to leave their crap behind on a subway seat.

Sadly, the campaign looks more like a college marketing assignment than an outreach campaign for the nation’s largest transit system. The idea could have worked if it was executed with some style and thoughtfulness. The TTC could also take the example set by Den Bosch, Netherlands — instead of trying to shame us, clean up the system and announce it in a very creative way. The large mat mimics the entrance to a house where we wipe/leave our shoes. The text on the mat reads: “Welkom. Wij doen er alles aan om het station schoon te houden. En daarin gaan we best ver.” This means: “Welcome. We do everything we can to keep the station clean. And we go pretty far in doing this.” [via]

I feel comfortable giving my opinion about design and marketing (’cause that’s a large part of my job) but I feel weird about giving advise to the TTC on personnel issues. But I’d like to humbly suggest that they should employ a two-person crew at Kipling, Kennedy, Downsview and Finch who could quickly goes through each train when trains reach the end stations. It would be a constant reminder to the riders that the TTC is serious about keeping the system clean. Or maybe they should consider installing recycling bins into the new subway cars the TTC is looking to purchase.



  1. Two points here:

    1. The idea of having cleaners walk through trains at terminals was part of the staff redeployment that Local 113 is so upset about. Of course, we could have the train cleaners without the night shifts, but TTC management would never be so creative.

    2. Trash bins on trains would be really messy, really fast. More than hiding bombs, they would be a fire hazard (much easier to start a fire than to carry a bomb around).

  2. Fresh Creation also has a link to a commercial made for Bratislava. It deals with litter in the same way the TTC is trying to, but does a much better job.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. It’s painful to see the TTC’s lame publicity people in action. And don’t be humble about your clean-up crew suggestion: it’s the first thing they should do to get slobs to shape up, because the dirtier the car the less inhibited litterbugs on the border (… should I? shouldn’t I? ….) are about droping their crap.

    Now me, I’d like to see two great big people in uniform go through the system randomly bracing the real slobs and removing them as a form of “litter” if they don’t pick up what they’ve dropped.

  4. TTC marketing is abysmal with the one exception of the metropass ads where a streetcar is parked in the driveway or bus parked in an apartment parking lot. Those ones are clever and well-executed.
    The rest? Flying buses? Pig masks? Hideous. And someone at the TTC really loves clipping images out of their backgrounds — too bad they haven’t gotten better at it over the years.

  5. The TTC ads are so bad they’re actually kind of good. Plus, as easy as it is to criticize the TTC, they’ve made a concerted effort to install well-marked garbage cans throughout the station. A garbage can inside a subway car will, ironically, make the cars more unpleasant as those 90% of people who dump their trash properly in station bins will more likely cram it into the tiny bins on a subway car. It also takes up valuable space for passengers.

    Has anyone ever seen the graffiti movie ‘Style Wars’? There’s this part where NYC Mayor Ed Koch unveils a new ad campaign to fight graffiti vandalism with some no-name boxers shot in B&W, arms crossed, and the tagline ‘Take it from the Champs, Graffiti is for Chumps!’ Cleverness is not something that engages the average litterbug, vandal, etc. Rather, keeping the system clean and professional-looking will probably be the best deterrent to littering; I’ve found that systems with carpeted interiors (Washington Metro, SF BART) are usually in immaculate shape just because they feel more high class. The crushed velvet chairs in Toronto are far less vandalized, in turn, than the hard plastic and vinyl seats on other transit systems.

  6. Crushed velvet is just damn hard to scrawl on.

  7. Oh, and don’t forget that TTC cleanliness doesn’t just involve litter. A lot of the stations are in an appalling state of filth. I have better tolerance for a few scattered newspapers and pop cans than for sludge-encrusted walls.

    Maybe we should take out ads parodying the TTC’s own poor housekeeping.

  8. Gloria…I completely agree. The stations are not just untidy but dirty.

    I remember the ads they ran years ago that suggested that the first piece of trash dropped will lead to more trash being dropped… so don’t drop your trash.

    This is true of the cleanliness of the stations in general. Have cleaner stations to begin with.

  9. Much of the trash is newspapers. Why not have a newspaper sharing post, a bunch of holes where people could stick rolled-up newspapers for another patron to enjoy? People do that informally already by leaving newspapers stuck in the corner of seats, but eventually those end up on the floor. It wouldn’t be any more of a fire hazard than having newspapers strewn around the car, and it would be a convenience to everyone.

  10. The TTC litter posters are so bad that they are good. The problem is that the TTC thinks they are good, and thats bad. Got it?

  11. I was thinking some kind of wire or mesh magazine rack, but I like the holes too. I like being able to pick up a paper on a seat, and I enjoy neatly leaving them on seats for others, but not everybody “gets” this practice.

    While they’re at it, maybe paperback racks?

  12. I’ve had the same thought, Dylan (and Sarah), but I quashed mine because I figured slobs would shove their trash in such places, finding it easier than looking for a proper garbage bin. They would be a pain to clean, I think, if something sticky was spilled on them, because the spaces would be so small.

  13. —Correction, I meant pick up litter, not lick up. Sorry.


  14. This so called practice of leaving your newspaper for others is stupid. When there are no seats left on the bus and I don’t want to read your dirty newspaper from who-knows-where, what am I supposed to do with it? It has nowhere to go but the floor.

    Make some holes for it, or whatever. Until then know that you’re contributing to the mess on the TTC subways. Don’t be a pig.

  15. At the end of May when the TTC changed all the cleaning schedules (which was partly the cause of the strike), they created schedules for exactly what you suggest – two person crews at the four terminals doing a quick cleaning of subway cars as they arrive. They are supposed to be there Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 12:30pm with each janitor cleaning at least two cars of the train (3 if time permits).

  16. While the TTC campaigns are still pretty bad, they are improving, slowly.

  17. I think the garbage goblin ad is hilarious, come on…garbage goblins! What a great non-sequitor! But seriously, they are bright colours to try to get your attention, they may not be super clever but they get to the point. I do agree that the particular one about not littering at home isn’t effective because some people’s houses make me shudder. And the best part of the pig mask ad isn’t the mask, it’s the looks on the faces of the other people.

    I agree that trash bins on the subway would get gross really quickly even if everyone was nice and actually put garbage in the bins. Who wants to sit beside a bin full of rotting and sloshy waste while going from Finch to Union or another equally long trip? It would smell bad and sound worse with every lurch of the train. Plus it would be ridiculously easy for any teenager or drunken fool to set their contents on fire.