#SitTO advocates call for more outdoor seating in Toronto
There aren’t enough seating areas in this city’s public spaces, advocates say.
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Torontonians shouldn’t have to hold on to their butts.
That’s the message from a group of urban enthusiasts looking for more places for the city to park its collective keister.
“A lot of these great spaces you can tell people want to hang out in, they’re at times sitting on the planters or leaning against the walls. There’s no infrastructure provided,” said Stas Ukhanov, one of the people behind #SitTO, an informal campaign to point out a lack of public seating.
By Ukhanov’s count, on Yonge St. from Lake Ontario all the way to Bloor St., weary travellers come across just two benches, both supplied by businesses.
“You can have great streets and parks that are full of people, but if the people don’t stick around, you don’t have the vibrant places that people enjoy.”
He points to the Spanish Steps in Rome, the red stairs atop the TKTS booth in New York’s Times Square, and the steps outside Ryerson University’s student learning centre as enviable examples of people-filled places.
“It’s almost a natural amphitheatre into the streets,” he said of the building at Yonge and Gould sts.
On Saturday, as part of 100in1Day, a showcase of city improvement projects, the group will unfold 20 Ikea chairs in spots around town.
The chair clusters would accelerate a concept that’s already spreading in the city: Streets for people.
Toronto the Good wasn’t always dotted with patios, and tickets were once handed out for loitering, he said.
“There was just this idea that if you’re on the streets you probably shouldn’t be there and you should move along,” Ukhanov said. “Streets are not just for moving, they’re our greatest public land assets.”
Streets make up one of the largest chunks of publicly owned space, covering more than 25 per cent of the city, a greater proportion than parkland, according to the city’s Complete Streets office.
“Toronto has always been a sittable city, and it continues to be one,” Adam Popper, an urban planner and project manager with the department, wrote in an email.
Not including park benches, the city has almost 1,700 public street benches, with anywhere from 100 to 200 added each year.
“The challenge is finding enough space for seating,” he said, adding that the city must consider accessibility, the desirability of a sitting spot, and maintaining rights-of-way.
For Ukhanov, the folding chairs provide a quick fix. Temporary chairs are a small, easy investment, but might inspire more seating in future street redesigns.
“We’re not pointing fingers at anyone, we just want people to reflect on that.”