Toronto’s Transit Commission, along with Mayor John Tory are facing a flood of backlash after a spate of violent attacks aboard various transport services over the last few months, as well as chaotic and severely delayed service during this week’s snow storm.
The pattern of lacking services, combined with violence the TTC has faced recently has made many people fed up and unsettled using public transit. The most recent attack on Wednesday involved the stabbing of a 16-year-old boy on a bus, which resulted in serious injuries. Earlier in the week, one person was arrested for allegedly chasing a pair of TTC workers with a syringe.
It appears even TTC drivers are fed up with the chaotic situation. Earlier this week, when Toronto was hit by a winter storm, a rider captured a subway announcement in which the TTC employee candidly relayed that there was no service between several stations, and to take up their displeasure with Toronto Mayor John Tory.
I do apologize for the lack of communications from transit control. These guys really don’t care what you guys are doing.TTC employee on speaker
With TTC staff literally under attack, you can’t blame operators for making sure passengers know it’s John Tory’s fault transit service is so bad. pic.twitter.com/8w9YfyjbiI
— Adam Chaleff (@AdamCF) January 26, 2023
The brave employee's actions were immediately praised by social media viewers who empathize with the staff struggle.
I don't blame the operator one bit. They are showing up for work every day with a target on their back by wearing the uniform.
TTC operators are being assaulted on a daily basis on the system, yet Rick Leary and @JohnTorysTO doesn't care.@ATUlocal113 #MentalHealthMatters
— Mike 🇺🇦 #СлаваУкраїні (@mwright48) January 26, 2023
Kudos to that staff member for speaking up. Sometimes I think back to late 2018 when my councillor was elected as Tory’s “transit tsar”, ready to revolutionize transit in Toronto. What a load of lies we were fed.
— Kate (@DrKateTO) January 26, 2023
For those saying he should be fired - nope. He's telling them the appropriate places to address complaints to, and it's a matter of his own safety too at that point. I hope he is not disciplined for it, and that if he is - the people stand up for him.
— Eleanor Jean (@LadyHardcore) January 26, 2023
Many others took to social media to voice their concerns and frustrations with the delayed and cancelled services and crowded platforms that overwhelmed the system during Wednesday’s snow dump.
the TTC isn't the problem. housing is the problem. public washrooms are the problem. lack of mental health supports is the problem. funding the police is the problem. John Tory is the problem.
— asmaa malik | اسمأ (@asmaam) January 25, 2023
This is what years of @JohnTory austerity has done to this city. He chose to reduce TTC service despite increasing costs. How are ppl supposed to feel safe? Tory purposely is causing more crowding on transit when ppl are already on edge & regular violence. #TOpoli #Toronto pic.twitter.com/xq1nNFy3eK
— Justice_Queen 🏗🏙🚇⚖️ (@RE_MarketWatch) January 25, 2023
I know there is a storm and other challenges on the TTC today but it is appalling to leave hundreds of people waiting for a bus in the snow (southbound Dufferin Station) for more than an hour, with no updates or information. This is the only option many people have.
— Alyshah Sanmati Hasham (@alysanmati) January 25, 2023
- The TTC website is apparently down, there are subway closures, and right now, busses are running once every hour. Tell us again why we are going to be paying more for less?
— jessica neil (@jesslneil) January 25, 2023
John Tory @JohnTory good job reducing TTC service. How do you think ppls moods are going to be? Waiting longer for TTC, getting into over crowded vehicles, ppl feeling unsafe due to increased violence. You need to do a better job Mr. Tory, do not leave this as your legacy #TOpoli pic.twitter.com/Z95GkCA4Vo
— Justice_Queen 🏗🏙🚇⚖️ (@RE_MarketWatch) January 25, 2023
They knew a snow storm was coming but Toronto doesn’t care about lower and middle class folks who use the TTC. This is not a world class city stop claiming it is! And employers need to quit dragging ppl into work during storms let them wfh if they are able to #TOpoli #Toronto pic.twitter.com/Ra2WUZ1ZEW
— Justice_Queen 🏗🏙🚇⚖️ (@RE_MarketWatch) January 26, 2023
Toronto's transit system is 'microcosm' for wider society
Matti Siemiatycki is the director of the Infrastructure Institute and a professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. He says the feeling that things are falling apart at the seams when it comes to public transit stem from larger issues in the city, like lack of mental health services and the need for more affordable housing.
“Transit is a microcosm of wider society,” he tells Yahoo Canada News. “Transit is the focus point right now because so many high profile events have happened on public transit.”
He says the issues with the TTC also fall against the backdrop of the city’s budget, which recently involved cutting transit services and raising fares.
There’s concern that transit is going to enter the death spiral of lower ridership, then service cutbacks, raising fares and the spiral continues. Issues around safety and personal security are really just amplifying it. The safety and reliability of a transit system are critical to the functioning of a big city like Toronto.Matti Siemiatycki, Director of the Infrastructure Institute, Geography and Planning professor, University of Toronto
He adds that a city’s success is undermined once people start looking into other ways to get around, in order to avoid taking public transit. Central issues like housing for those without it and services for people struggling with addiction and mental health challenges are critical to address in order for things to shift.
“It’s really imperative that solutions are found quickly,” Siemiatycki says. “We need to be thinking about the underlying causes here but there is an immediacy of a city that’s frazzled and on edge. “
In response to the recent TTC safety issues, Toronto police are increasing 'daily presence' of officers on the city's transit system starting this week. Upwards of 80 officers will be present on all lines, and are encouraged to chat with passengers and staff members to catch "crimes of opportunity."
Toronto Mayor John Tory also suggested a summit that would bring mayors, ministers, premiers and the PM together to discuss people living with mental health and addiction. He reassured the public that Toronto is doing everything it can.
"The TTC must be safe for everyone, without exception," he said.
—With files from CBC News