The metered city

A medley of meters standing watch over…something or other.

Our modern urban infrastructure is so pervasive that most of it goes virtually unnoticed. But every once in a while, something appears just out of place enough to make you stop and wonder what it’s doing there. For example, an electricity meter strapped to a light pole directly above a pedestrian “push to cross” button, its familiar flat disk spinning slowly and recording usage of, um, what exactly? Surely it’s not metering the little light that glows after you press the button.

Since first puzzling over that meter at Kingston Road & Celeste Drive earlier this year, I’ve been noticing a lot more of them in odd locations. Some of the places deemed to require monitoring include the edge of a forested park, a hydro pole with big fat conduits leading to a small grey box, and a lamp post with no obvious connection to anything (all pictured above). Unlike meters at cellular or broadcast transmission towers, these don’t seem to be associated with any particular structure or electricity consumer. So what are they measuring, and for whom? It’s a bit of a mystery.

Sadly, Toronto Hydro hasn’t yet responded to my week-old query about the purpose of these seemingly random meters. Whenever I call or email someone to ask for an explanation or clarification about some obscure piece of infrastructure, I feel like I’m more likely to be put on a terrorist watch list than I am to get an answer. I wonder if The Fixer and Urban Decoder ever feel that way.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

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