Today I relaunched my pages on TTC signage. They are no longer merely the largest repository of information on signage in the Toronto transit system; now the whole subsite has become a call to arms to prevent the TTC from removing and destroying old signs.


Yes, they really plan to do that, and they’re going about it under cover of night. The Commissioners of the TTC have not authorized the removal and destruction of signage at St. George (Paul Arthur’s irreplaceable old sign prototypes, not found anywhere else) and at the stations set for renovation, namely Pape, Eglinton, Victoria Park, and Kipling/Islington. At best, there was a presentation from the late Don Léger to the TTC in April describing plans to clean up filthy, corroded St. George station, with an offhand reference to “old” signs that were to be “removed.”

I heard that and my eyebrows hit the ceiling. Later I filed a single-page letter complaining that Paul Arthur’s signs have to be retained, not removed and destroyed.

It seemed that Commissioners were taking me seriously. They moved the topic to the next meeting so they could receive “deputations.” I dutifully came back from England in time to show up at the meeting and made not one but two deputations, in which I made the fatal mistake of failing to reiterate what Commissioners had had two months to read. Not only was there no motion passed to preserve old signs, Adam Giambrone suddenly and before my very eyes grew concerned about handwritten signs, which are now the priority for TTC signage. Here, “priority” means the TTC has six months to produce a report on the topic. That means six more months to begin putting a dent in a minor problem, and no dent at all put in major problems.

At the same meeting, acting general manager Gary Webster (he has since gotten the job full-time) then had the gall, under questioning from a Commissioner, to claim the current sign “standard” is just fine. That makes him the only person in the city, and the only employee of the TTC, who believes that. Gary Webster: I liked the Flat Earth Society so much I bought the company.

And there are a few other interesting details. I had a meeting with TTC about signage in April, and later sent them a solicited proposal to do a numerical inventory of signage forms in the subway. That would get us away from a design discussion. (We now know that any such discussion will be taken over by Gary Webster, who will contradict his own staff and everyone else.) TTC has been acting as though I never submitted that solicited proposal.

And they’ve been sending around my original TTC presentation from January to other people who write in about signage. This is merely the latest in TTC’s sign-related copyright infringements (they also send out their fake-Helvetica font files to printers). I shouldn’t be surprised at this, because no one at the TTC ever figured out that I had a printable tagged PDF up on my site the day I made the presentation; if they want to send anything out, it should be a simple hyperlink.

As I have explained repeatedly, including in my deputation last month, station refurbishments at Pape and elsewhere give us the chance to use the stations as testbeds for new sign designs. This is not a question of who likes what font or what somebody somewhere happens to think is pretty; it’s a question of function, which can be assessed only through testing. (Paul Arthur’s designs tested better for all groups than the old signs, but TTC Commissioners of the day were too chickenshit to put $8 million together to implement the system.)

So here’s where we stand.

  • Officially, the only urgent issue facing TTC signage is handwritten signs.
  • Everyone admits there’s a signage problem. On the topic of the current sign “standard,” the only person who thinks there isn’t a problem is now running the TTC.
  • TTC Commissioners have not authorized the permanent removal and destruction of irreplaceable signage, but TTC staff are acting as though they have that authorization – and they may just barrel ahead and do it.

Stop them before it’s too late. I am running a write-in campaign to pressure Commissioners to order TTC staff to retain old signage rather than running it through an industrial shredder and having a good laugh.

I would not be surprised if barely anyone wrote in. And I certainly don’t expect a link from the only transit blog the TTC reads, Steve Munro’s.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.07.03 12:45. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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