There is no question that Ottawa's street furniture needs a complete redesign. They look like they're from the 70s: Old, brown and bulky. They're not fun. They have no personality. So much so that the city developed an Integrated Street Furniture Program (ISFP) "to improve community streetscape and design, reduce advertising clutter, and provide an increase in service while simultaneously generating additional revenue." According to Designing Ottawa, "the idea is to give a contract to a private company that will supply the furniture at little or no cost to the city in exchange for advertising rights on the furniture".
It's too bad only one private company will take over this project. I would have made it a contest and had the citizens vote on their favorite design. Anyway, hopefully it will be a creative company that will propose something original, unique and fun. I personally think that it would be fun to change the design according to the neighborhood so each would have it's own personal street furniture style. You would be able to recognize the location based on the design. I think it's a good way to give the neighborhoods a bit of personality and also encourage residents who live there to take more pride into their environment and take care of it.
Another interesting thing would be to integrate technology in bus stops, a bit like the interactive bus stop proposed for the city of Zaragoza, Spain. "The Adaptable Bus Stop, incorporates several types of digital technologies in order to offer new services to the public, allow for cost-effective manufacturing, and [generate] advertising revenue".
A parametric design model determines a unique design for each stop providing optimal sheltering at minimal cost. Bus riders can plan their trip on a interactive map, exchange community relevant information on a digital message board, surf the web, and use the media on the bus shelter as an interface to their mobile devices.
Wouldn't it be neat to have bus shelters with integrated surface computing as well? That would definitely put Ottawa on the international map. There are so many creative and intelligent designs out there, it would be a shame to repeat the same old thing (square bus shelters with aluminum frames) instead of pushing the envelope like it's been done in other cities, as shown below.
Whimsical street furniture in Tokyo, Japan
City Lounge in St. Gallen, Switzerland
The Red Ribbon Project in Qinhuangdao, China.
I hope whoever gets the contract makes it fun as well. We'll see. The change is scheduled for 2011.