Cities around the world have been battling graffiti for years. One popular spot for graffiti and tagging artists are the traffic control boxes which are usually pretty unattractive metal boxes on the side of the road. The city of Ottawa Canada said they spend 35,000CND a year cleaning off this graffiti across the cities traffic boxes alone. So how do you solve this? In Ottawa they have decided to pilot a programme where they cover the boxes in vinyl, graffiti-resistant wrappers featuring bright colours and iconic imagery. These wrappers are easily cleaned and, if necessary, easily replaced. In Brisbane, Australia the city has invited artists and citizens to cover all the traffic boxes around the city with art work. These are really fantastic and there is even a wait list to paint new boxes. Not only has this generally solved the problem but the art work is colourful and unique and gives you something to look at at traffic lights across the city. They even have awards for the best boxes and anyone can paint a box.

These are two very different approaches to the same problem. In one the local citizens are in a sense given the boxes, they become part of the public domain and are the responsibility of the people who are taking good care of them. In Ottawa they are still trying to control the problem by keeping the responsibility within the hands of the government.

Many cities are realising that they cannot be everywhere for everyone all the time and are finding innovative ways to solve social problems within their cities in ways that also engage their citizens more. This is in a sense getting two birds with one stone. In Ottawa they will still have to clean the boxes, it will be easier, but they will still need to cleaned while in Brisbane they have more or less solved that problem without having to allocate budget to it and have moved on to something else. Which do you think will be more sustainable in the long term?