TTC security cameras on budget chopping block
Cutting back on TTC security is one of the options being considered at city hall as councilors struggle to find savings within the transit system.
While the federal government is investing about $40 million to help beef up security on public transit systems nationwide, the Toronto Transit Commission remains unconvinced.
A security camera project destined for buses and streetcars could get the axe, saving over $20 million for the city.
"I'm disappointed, I think we should be moving forward on some limited cameras," TTC chair Adam Giambrone said Friday.
In October 2006 the TTC started to outfit buses and streetcars with the high-resolution cameras. By the end of 2007 they expected to have cameras installed on 1750 vehicles.
Cameras were part of a larger safety overhaul of TTC vehicles. Another $2.7 million project was approved at the same time to install protective barriers for drivers.
Cameras and protective shields were demanded by union members in 2006. It was a central issue during a wildcat strike that shut down the system for a day in May of that year.
Ottawa started investing in transit security due to concerns about potential terrorist attacks. The TTC wanted $5.8 million to place cameras at so-called choke points, or places where people enter and exit the transit system.
That approach proved effective in London, England when cameras captured images of four people suspected of bombing that city's subway system.
But in Toronto, budget chair Shelley Carroll does not believe that cameras will act as a deterrent.
"Your picture gets taken 30 times when you ride the subway in London and it did not stop that terrible tragedy," Carroll said.
The TTC also wanted to install cameras on all the hundreds of buses and streetcars that criss-cross the city, not just to provide security for passengers but to protect drivers as well. A pilot project using a limited number of cameras is currently underway.
Driver safety was one of the issues that sparked a wildcat strike by TTC employees in May of last year. While officials called the sudden strike inappropriate, city hall began looking at the security upgrades once the dispute had ended.
But budget deliberations appear to have put the upgrades on hold.
Councillor David Shiner says the budget committee needs to think about everyone's safety.
"Safety of our employees and safety of the riders, and maintaining a safe system should be our utmost concern," Shiner said. "It's a need that we have in the city, not a want."
The budget committee insists no new security cameras will be installed unless the federal government comes up with 75 per cent of the financing.
The committee pledged to revisit the camera proposal when the city develops an overall security policy and after Giambrone and Mayor David Miller develop a new security strategy for the TTC.
With a report from CTV's Desmond Brown