On Friday, I got a tip about a new arrival on Bank Street.
After four or five years of negotiations, a multi-unit newspaper box was recently installed on Bank Street near Albert. Naturally, I spent some time on Saturday taking photos of it.
You'll note that there are two units, carrying a total of ten newspapers. They're also lifted off the ground, partly for easier access, but also to keep the ground clean near newspaper stands. If the BIA, the newspaper companies, and the City agree, this type of unit can replace the hodgepodge of miscellaneous newspaper boxes that clutter downtown streets, such as this collection at Bank and Cooper:
This unit has three vacant spaces for free newspapers. The Citizen and the Post are in there as paid newspapers, and some free magazines, including Auto Mart.
Auto Mart is one of a collection of magazines that we frequently find in the tall box called the "Big Yellow Box", whose headquarters are (or at least, used to be) on Gladstone just West of the tracks.
Aside from the fact that Auto Mart is distributed mainly in transit- and pedestrian-oriented areas (thus encouraging people to move from those modes to driving), the "Big Yellow Box" identifies a problem that these multiplex boxes pose: while the BIA likes how the new boxes reduce clutter, newspapers rely on their coloured boxes to identify them and promote their brand. Each of the thousands of boxes a newspaper has out on the streets is a promotion of the newspaper--heck, they probably lose money on the darn things. That might be why the Sun isn't in this multi-box.
Perhaps in the next version of this multi-box, each paper will get a coloured panel instead of the plain black. There's also room on the back side of the unit:
For those worried about such a large thing cluttering up the sidewalk, it doesn't really stand out from the other street furniture on Bank Street, as seen in this shot from up the sidewalk:
Or this one from down the street on the other side:
There are actually a large number of unresolved problems, though. For example, the City can't ban standard newspaper boxes from area where this type of box is installed (although I understand that there is agreement by the newspaper companies not to put any standalone boxes on the same block as this multi-unit, at least for the one-year trial).
Similarly, it would take lots of effort for the City to be in charge of these boxes, at a time when the City is trying to reduce its workload. So the boxes will either be owned and/or operated by the BIA, or it will fall under the Mayor's "street furniture" plan, and will be outsourced with benches, garbage bins and bike racks to ClearChannel, Pattison, or some other gigantic media company.
If they are thusly outsourced, then what are the implications to the right of freedom of speech? Will the company be able to deny access to papers it doesn't like? Will new papers (including community papers) have access to the boxes?
There are definitely many factors at play here, but at the moment I'm going to enjoy that they tidy up the place the bit.
I'll leave you with a gratuitous shot of Bank Street between Albert and Laurier, with the Mondrian under construction in the background: