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New tabloids leave TTC with cleanup problem

All three papers need to come up with a solution, GTA Today publisher says

By Hamida Ghafour
Toronto Star Staff Reporter

The three new commuter tabloids given away at subway stations are creating a garbage and potential safety problem, says the Toronto Transit Commission.

“We just don’t have enough staff to clean up the fantastic mess of papers,” said TTC spokesperson Marilyn Bolton, after the commission got complaints from its employees who clean up the subways.

The commission says the Swedish-owned Metro, Sun Media Corp.’s FYI Toronto and GTA Today, published by Torstar Corp., parent of Toronto Star, are being tossed carelessly by readers.

There are about 350,000 free papers being given out in Toronto every day as the papers battle it out for readers. The TTC hired 10 summer students at a cost of $30,000 to pick up garbage at the 66 subway stations, Bolton said.

All three papers need to come up with solutions, said Andrew Go, publisher of GTA Today and vice-president of business ventures at Toronto Star.

GTA Today is distributed through 1,500 purple boxes set up outside TTC and GO stations in Greater Toronto.

“When you pick your copy of Today from the box you make a conscious decision to pick up the paper; that’s an important point for us to point out,” Go said.

Metro is available inside the subway stations.

FYI Toronto is given out by 190 people at the entranceways of the TTC and GO stations, said Mark Stevens, Toronto Sun publisher and CEO.

Stevens said he hasn’t heard from the TTC that the papers are creating a nuisance, although he has been deluged with phone calls from reporters. He said the people who give out the 50,000 copies of FYI Toronto every day are supposed to throw out leftover papers properly.

He said there could be a litter issue if the distributors are throwing them away. “We haven’t heard of that happening,” he said.

“We only have 50,000 copies out there, so we don’t have a problem. It’s GTA Today that’s the problem. They’ve got 150,000 circulation,” said Lou Clancy, executive assistant to Stevens. “If there’s a problem, it lies somewhere else.”

Go said Toronto Star publisher John Honderich sent a letter to the TTC on June 30, the day after GTA Today’s launch. In the letter, Honderich acknowledged there could be a garbage problem and invited TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme for a discussion. Some possible solutions include adding recycling bins to various stations, Go said.

Adding recycling bins in stations could offer relief

Bolton said that at the Bloor and Yonge subway station, employees usually fill five or six garbage bags, but since June 30 - when the papers arrived - they are hauling out 40 big bags of garbage every night.

“That’s just at Bloor and Yonge,” Bolton said.

There is also a potential safety hazard because paper lying on the tracks could fly on the windshields of the subway trains, obstructing the driver’s view, Bolton said. It could also be a fire hazard.

“When they fly around they can also go to the track level. If they land on the power rail, it’s a high charge of electricity and the paper burns,” she added.

So far, that hasn’t been a problem, she said.

Bolton said she would like to see the three papers help pick up the cleanup costs because the expense of paying the students is another strain on the TTC’s tight budget.

Officials with Metro did not return The Star’s calls.