Concerns over an apparent rise in violence on the TTC came to the Danforth. On the evening of January 27th, a robbery was reported at Pape Station. Minutes later, an assault had taken place on board a bus nearby in the same area, according to Toronto Police. The two incidents are just one of a large uptick in reported acts of aggression on the TTC that have plagued the company in recent weeks. This has led to fears and questions about whether riding the TTC is still safe.
Incidents of violence are not unheard-of on public transit. In December 2022, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, the union of transit workers in Toronto, put out a survey in which 73% of responding transit employees had confirmed they were witnesses to violence on the TTC. Transit workers are constantly at risk of being met with an incident, whether violent or not. It is now riders who share the fear of danger in transit as well.
Pape Station, for example, serves as a hub for out-of-area Centennial College students from the Story Arts Centre campus, travelling from home to attend College Classes. Centennial students hope that more is done to reduce the possibility of further incidents in the community.
Kathryne Bergeron, a Journalism Student at Centennial College, says she is concerned by the uptick in reported violent incidents on the TTC. “The recent happenings on the Danforth do make me nervous. It’s close to campus, so it feels more real knowing that it happened where I have been, even though I wasn’t there.” Bergeron, who travels to Toronto using public transit, said she feels safer with the potential of added security on the TTC. “I think that it’s still possible for bad things to happen, but it’s still safer because it’s less likely,” she says. The TTC and the city already had a planned increase in policing services for public transportation, but the added measures are meant to signal a tougher approach to combating the reported increase in violence.
In a statement, to “On the Danforth” ATU Local 113 said, “No one should be afraid to go to work–—and that is the reality of our members. Torontonians should feel safe on public transit, and it should be a reliable option for commuters. The City of Toronto and TTC have created a temporary fix to the problem, but this needs to be addressed at its root cause.”
The TTC’s 2023 budget announced an extra $4 million in funding to be set aside for improving safety standards on the TTC. A $53 million subsidy increase was already allocated to improve the standards of the TTC, but now adding more funds is deemed necessary to protect riders and ensure public trust for users of transit in Toronto. John Tory’s goal for the TTC is to tackle the recently highlighted violence by strengthening the transit system. The hope is that a visible police presence will deter potential incidents from happening, and trained security will stop the violence or serious events from being yet another crisis plaguing the TTC.
The TTC, via a press release (January 30th), announced that the City of Toronto would be funding de-escalation services to protect riders on the TTC. They will add a temporary additional 50 security guards trained in nonviolent intervention services and critical care, for cases involving sensitive matters such as drug usage and mental health protection.
Toronto-Danforth Paula Fletcher, along with five other members of Toronto City Council, penned a letter to Tory, asking him to reconsider the decision to employ the added police enforcement. The joint statement asks the government, as well as the Toronto Police Service, if the added employment would support marginalized communities. It was found in a study that black Torontonians are 20% more likely to be killed by police than white Toronto residents.
Although concerns are evident about safe transit, Torontonians appear conflicted about the TTC being too dangerous. An Abacus Data poll found that 46% of Toronto residents are using the TTC less in wake of violent incidents. The poll also found more responses for transit being unsafe, 41% polled feeling pretty or very unsafe, compared to 33% feeling either pretty or very safe. Toronto Police later announced on March 13th the increased security measures would end.
For residents commuting to the Danforth, the idea of being safe in transit depends on the rider. And although some have concerns about TTC safety, others seem to use the TTC as normal. The Danforth is a quiet, close-knit community, and residents hope to feel safe when they are in transit. For all Torontonians, people are looking to make sure the TTC is the least of the worries to and from home.