TTC CEO admits people are ‘nervous’ to use public transit amid recent violent incidents
The head of the Toronto Transit Commission acknowledged Thursday that violent incidents in recent months have left people scared to use the TTC.
"Our ridership patterns have stayed relatively level, but I'm talking to people and they're telling me that they are nervous. They're nervous to send the kids out on the TTC," CEO Rick Leary said.
"We recognize that, and that's part of the approach that we're taking by bringing as many staff as possible into the TTC, as many outside help as possible so that people start having that comfort level again."
Leary made the remark as Toronto city council was debating on Thursday whether to grant the TTC to withdraw up to $15 million from its reserve funds to deal with "unbudgeted measures" addressing health and safety.
"It's important that the council approve or authorize this $15 million so that the TTC can continue on its path to ensuring that the TTC is safe for all of our customers, all of our employees," he said.
Hours later, following a day of debate, councillors voted in favour of the motion that grants the request with a number of amendments, including calling on the provincial and federal governments to assist the city in addressing safety on the TTC and urging all telecom providers to ensure there is cell service across the subway system.
The request was made after the city temporarily deployed 50 security guards to TTC property, in addition to 20 community safety ambassadors, amid an increase in violent incidents on the system.
According to a report considered at themeeting, the guards, safety ambassadors, as well as additional control dispatchers and extended station cleaning resulted in about $1.4 million in unbudgeted initiatives.
As a result, the transit agency was asking the city to allow it to withdraw up to $15 million from their Stabilization Reserve for these kind of measures, which would include anything that addresses “the health, safety and security of TTC employees, customers and the public on TTC’s transit network.”
“Throughout the pandemic, the TTC has seen a rise in social conflict reflected in both the increases in offences against customers and employees,” a February report on the request says.
“The extent to which these broader societal issues have shifted onto public transit has affected TTC customers, employees and the wider Toronto community and has highlighted the need to expand the scope of solutions beyond what is available to the TTC on its own.”
The report notes that while additional social programs and supports have been baked into its budgeted operations, “new costs exist for some interim measures that are currently unfunded.”
The reserve funds would be used to award or amend contracts for goods and services “deemed necessary to respond to an emergency.”
The TTC also wanted the definition of an emergency to be expanded to include “any situation of extreme urgency brought about by unforeseeable events.” Examples include the TTC’s COVID-19 pandemic response and the 2021 cyber security breach.
According to the report, Leary had previously been able to withdraw $5 million for contracts, $2.5 million for contract amendments and $500,000 for single-sourced procurements and unbudgeted expenditures related to emergencies.
The request comes after a string of violent incidents occurred on or near the TTC system, including the most recent death of a teenager, who was stabbed while waiting for a train.
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