The Other Side of Nuit Blanche

Saturday night was the fifth year of Scotiabank’s Nuit Blanche in Toronto. The underlying concept is a great one: from sundown to sunrise, local artists present their talents in various spaces around the city. Major arteries like Yonge Street are closed to automobile traffic and open to pedestrians to roam at will.
One of the luxuries of Nuit Blanche is that you can have a great night at home without rushing out, because you have hours ahead of you to enjoy your Saturday night. However, if you’re going to one of the main events, you still have to wait in line, something I wasn’t expecting.
Our primary destination was a big installation at Bay St. Station we had heard about through the grapevine, so we hopped on the subway with myriads of other people in their 20s and 30s, many of whom had the same idea. When we arrived at the Bay platform, we immediately noticed a queue and jumped in. We were quickly informed that the line started outside the station and that people had been waiting there for two hours. The line stretched through the busy platform, up the stairs, through the turnstiles and up more stairs to the street; although the volunteers were monitoring progress, it was mostly chaotic and it wasn’t really clear how they determined the difference between those who had been waiting diligently and those who just snuck into the queue.
Discouraged, we made our way out to Yonge Street and started walking the festival-like atmosphere of Nuit Blanche. The energy was exciting and we were looking forward to seeing the creative minds of Toronto at work, but we walked for blocks and blocks (all the way to King Street) without seeing much, except for an excess of garbage overflowing from bins, and people being sick on the sidewalk from too many drinks. It looked like some people had interpreted Nuit Blanche as a carte blanche to act like complete idiots and have someone else clean up after them.
To a certain extent, this can be blamed on the public, but on the other hand, why wasn’t the city or Scotiabank prepared for the waste overflow from such a huge event? There should be more bins and workers hired to take care of the job throughout the night. If we were seeing piles of garbage at midnight, I can only imagine what it would have looked like at seven in the morning. All that waste took away from the enlightened atmosphere that Nuit Blanche attempts to create.
Getting home on the subway was quick if claustrophobic, but a friend who took the streetcar was not so lucky. She said it was “horribly busy and crowded” and it took her almost two hours to get home. On a regular night, it would take 40 minutes.
My advice if you plan to go next year is to start early, to map out your routes, and to hit up an area like Queen Street West. For this art fanatic however, the overall atmosphere and organization of Nuit Blanche has a long way to come.