TTC and violence headlines aren’t everything

If you’re a Toronto transit rider, recent events might make you nostalgic for a time when the most you had to fear on a TTC subway platform was the announcement, “Shuttle buses are in road “.

But Toronto Transit Agency news has a lot more to offer in the realm of nightmares these days.

Sunday evening, around 9 p.m., a woman pushed another woman from the platform at Yonge and Bloor station onto the subway tracks. The victim managed to hide in a crawl space under the platform to avoid an oncoming train, a remarkable feat as she was seriously injured in the fall. Police arrested the alleged attacker this week: Edith Frayne, 45, has been charged with attempted murder.

That’s not all. Recent headlines involving the TTC are a litany of nightmares. Last month, a 21-year-old international student was shot and killed outside Sherbourne station in what was believed to be a random attack. Earlier this year, two teenagers were charged with stabbing a TTC bus driver in North York.

If you’re curious which TTC bus routes are the most dangerous, Star transport reporter Ben Spurr has the scoop: It’s the 36 Finch West bus route with 75 criminal and regulatory violations between 2016 and 2021, closely followed by Route 52 Lawrence at 73 violations in the same time frame. According to Spurr reports, there have been 358 “common assaults” against TTC bus customers between 2016 and 2021, and 477 common assaults against bus operators.

Needless to say, recent headlines about past and present crimes involving the TTC paint a very poor picture of a transit system struggling to retain and increase ridership amid historic lows during the COVID-19 pandemic. 19. The last thing an already nervous commuter wants to think about besides the potential for viral spread on their vehicle is the potential for violent crime.

And yet, despite the fact that I’ve spent the last few paragraphs scaring you – and myself – there’s no pressing reason for TTC riders to fear violent crime on their rides because thankfully , these events are rare.

In the case of passengers pushed from the docks, they are extremely rare. According to TTC spokesman Stuart Green, there have been three incidents of someone being pushed into a seemingly unprovoked attack, including this week’s, since 2009. That’s three incidents in 13 years – a period in which Torontonians have taken literally billions of transit trips without incident. In 2019, “ridership was over 500 million,” Green said. Over the past two years, “it’s been about 200 million every year.”

By comparison, the city recorded more than 60 traffic fatalities last year alone.

Speaking of traffic, according to the American Public Transportation Association, “The single most effective life-saving road safety tool for a commuter and a community may be the daily subway pass. A person can reduce their chances of being in an accident by more than 90% simply by taking public transport instead of driving. This means that traveling by public transport is 10 times safer per kilometer than traveling by car.

Unfortunately, in a city like Toronto, which is dangerously slow to improve pedestrian safety, it is often safer to take public transit than to walk.

Even when it comes to COVID-19, the TTC is by no means the worst place to be. Personally, I’d rather sit among mostly masked commuters in a subway car whose air is partially replaced every time its doors open than in a crowded restaurant with poor ventilation.

All of this to say that, yes, recent events on and around Toronto’s transit system are legitimately horrific and efforts should be made to improve the safety of riders and staff. But if you’re avoiding the TTC because of these events, try if you can to put them into perspective.

Critics will argue that the TTC, the police or the mayor could have prevented Sunday’s attack: that such incidents are the result of a lack of enforcement or support for people struggling with serious mental illness. But while the city urgently needs the latter, the fact remains that random, isolated murders and attempted murders occur in cities large and small. This will never change. The somewhat comforting news is that when it comes to public transit in Toronto, such acts are rare.

While our fears may tell a different story, the worst thing that will happen to most Torontonians on the subway is the announcement that shuttles are on the way. Now it’s up to the TTC to convince scared racers and would-be racers that this is the case. I don’t envy them.

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