By Celine Tran
It comes as a shock to find out that your daily commute to and from school may no longer be safe. There has been a large increase in instances of assault on the TTC, the widely used public transportation service in Toronto. Many Harbord students and staff use the TTC as their main source of transportation, and even though it’s accessible, the rise in violence can be concerning. Considering the circumstances, it’s hard not to ask the questions, “Is the TTC safe?” and “What can we do about it?”
The TTC is an integral part of Toronto culture and is an essential service. Established in 1921, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has continued to connect people all over Toronto. It’s estimated that over 2 million people ride the TTC every day during the weekdays.
For the past few months, there has been a noticeable amount of assaults on the TTC being reported on the news, and it’s only becoming more frequent. The most recent case, as of early 2023, was on February 8th, when a man assaulted a 12-year-old girl on a TTC bus in a hate-motivated attack. There have been many other disturbing cases that have come out prior to the February 8th attack, such as passengers being pushed on tracks, assaulted, and killed. This is worrying for students who take the TTC to school as they could be potentially at risk too.
An independent investigation conducted reports that out of a group of 31 Harbord students, only 26% of students surveyed said they felt safe while the remaining 74% said the opposite. Some participants reported that hearing about cases of assault on the TTC contributed to feelings of fear and uncertainty towards public transit, a few even mentioning how they experienced some form of harassment themselves.
An anonymous grade 10 student writes, “Every day the news is filled with brutal tragedies, and considering I have experienced harassment on the TTC, I am always on the edge when I have to travel using the subway or streetcar to school in fear that I might be the next victim.”
So, what’s being done to combat this issue? TTC chief executive Rick Leary states that there are plans in the works to put more staff in stations to ensure passenger safety. Toronto police will also be increasing police presence on transit, rotating stations during peak hours. The TTC encourages commuters to take advantage of the designated waiting areas placed in subway stations as they have security cameras and intercoms.
Staying vigilant, leaving conflict before it escalates, and taking extra precautions are all ways we can stay a little bit safer on the TTC. If you’re traveling late at night, the Request Stop Program lets commuters riding between 9 p.m and 5 a.m request to be dropped off between regular TTC stops. For example, if you live between two stops you can request in advance to be dropped off in between the stops instead of either one. However, this program is not available on streetcars. There is also a SafeTTC app commuters can use in order to report incidents in real-time. This is definitely an extremely complex issue that doesn’t have one solution, so it’s important to ensure our own safety for the time being.