by Jeff Viray
Over the past few months, there have been growing concerns about safety on the TTC, not only for riders but employees as well. Many commuters are asking what TTC will be doing about it.
One such commuter, Ariane Marak, a student at the University of Guelph-Humber and a dessert chef at a local Toronto restaurant rides the TTC every day, to get to class and to work.
She says she doesn’t feel safe on her commutes, especially going home after work during the wee hours.
“It’s nerve-wracking…given what’s in the news, you never know what will happen.”
She has seen many volatile interactions between riders and employees, she says. Women being harassed for money, and riders shouting abusive language at bus drivers.
Marak believes incidents like these have only started ramping up recently, “Years ago (before covid), it wasn’t too much of an issue, but now, with people being set on fire, pushed on tracks, and myself personally being verbally harassed and seeing it happen. It’s scary and overwhelming.”
Just this past week eight violent incidents on the TTC have been reported. Some of these incidents include a swarming attack by a group of teenagers on three TTC employees in Scarborough, a rider being stabbed in the head and face on a Spadina street, and another pair of TTC workers being chased by a man with a syringe at Dundas station.
On Monday a woman was violently pushed to the ground and robbed of her purse at Broadview subway station.
Police have arrested 44 year old McKinley Manalang and charged him with robbery and failure to comply with probation.
But these incidents haven’t been starting this week either, over the previous summer a 28-year-old woman, Nyima Dolma, was set on fire and died from her injuries, in what police say was a random attack.
For Marak, there isn’t much riders or employees can do to help stop incidents like these, “TTC workers intervene and they get harassed and people intervene and they get harassed. It’s hard to find solutions.”
A call to action was made by the ATU, Amalgamated Transit Union, president John DI Nino. Di Nino called for a national safety task force, that included transit agencies across the country and government representatives found from all levels.
Di Nino called for the task force after he said that attacks on public transit have reached, a “crisis level.”
The task force itself Di Nino says would evaluate de-escalation training methods, penalties, increased mental health and public housing funding, and increase of police presence as ways to prevent such incidents from increasing.
While Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw announced yesterday, during a news conference, an increase in police presence in and around TTC areas. This increase would see around 80 more police officers as a way to reduce these violent altercations/incidents.
Demkiw says, that commuters “will immediately notice an increased presence of Toronto Police officers in subways, streetcars, and buses.”
Mayor John Tory is hoping that the police presence will “complement measures” that he also made this month in his monthly budget. These measures include 50 more TTC special constables and as well increase in housing outreach workers.
While Premier Doug Ford has commended the action made by Mayor Tory and the Toronto Police, he says this is only “a band-aid solution.” Premier Ford also said during the news conference a hope of hiring more cops as the long-term solution to quell the ongoing violence in the TTC.
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