The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has backed down on plans to remove newspaper boxes from the entrances to all its subway stations after staff from Xtra’s publishing company, Pink Triangle Press (PTP), and other newspaper publishers, convinced TTC officials that removing the boxes was an illegal encroachment on free expression in public spaces.
The TTC told PTP on Feb 16 that it was removing Xtra’s box from the area near the entrance to Wellesley Station in an effort to improve the appearance of the area. The Xtra box and several others were removed on Feb 16, but the TTC says it will return the box to its original location shortly.
“It’s a victory,” says PTP director of engagement Gareth Kirkby. “This happened largely due to the work of [TTC Chair] Adam Giambrone and his staff.”
Kirkby proposed that the TTC offer a system of licensing and standards that would require publishers to maintain their boxes in a state of good repair and cleanliness. A similar system is used in Vancouver’s Skytrain system, where PTP distributes Xtra’s Vancouver edition.
The TTC is now creating such a licensing system.
TTC chief property development officer Domenic Garisto confirms that the boxes will be returned to Wellesley Station “imminently,” and that the TTC is “not removing other boxes until the licensing system is in place.”
The ability to distribute community media on public property is a vitally important charter right, Kirkby says.
“Minority communities are often the last to put boxes on the system,” he says. “It’s vitally important in a changing Toronto that the members of minority communities are able to have a conversation through their media in these public spaces.”