Over 150 people exchange ideas on how to make the TTC in the town hall safer
More than 150 people attended a town hall on Thursday night to share ideas on how to create a safer public transportation system in Toronto after a series of violent incidents.
Attendees at the TTC Safety Townhall at Centennial College, Progress Campus included road users, transit workers, students, community activists and concerned members of the public. People attended the town hall both in person and online. TTCriders organized the event.
In a press release after the event, Shelagh Pizey-Allen, Managing Director of TTCriders, said investments in TTC, including more 24/7 service and more help and support staff, would make the system safer.
Service cuts are not the answer, she said.
“Sensational violence on public transport risks driving passengers away, scapegoating the homeless and missing an opportunity to address long-standing problems. TTC safety concerns are not new and deserve serious, evidence-based approaches,” said Pizey-Allen.
Marvin Alfred, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents transit workers in Toronto, said all levels of government must help homeless people find housing.
Alfred told reporters that the TTC has become an extension of the city’s homeless shelter system, a type of mobile shelter, because the existing shelter system is underfunded.
“Because it’s been ignored for so long and things have been starved out for so long, people have turned to the transit system as a 24-hour shelter,” Alfred said.
Alfred said people without accommodation ride the subway until it closes, then take a night bus for hours until the subway stations reopen in the morning, and then go to a station to warm up. He said people shouldn’t rely on the TTC for their shelter and they deserve dignity and respect.
“It’s unfortunate that people have to go through so much trouble to find some kind of stable housing. I’ve been in the job for 21 years and I’ve never seen people turn to transit for housing as a full-time job. That needs to be addressed,” he said.
Rhetoric demonizing homeless people, says lawyer
Lorraine Lam, a social worker and member of the Shelter and Housing Justice Network, said the political rhetoric surrounding security issues at the TTC unfairly demonizes homeless people.
Lam said the language reinforces negative stereotypes of people experiencing homelessness.
“The kind of assumptions that the city piles up is just telling the public, ‘yes, these people are dangerous,’ when in fact they aren’t,” Lam said.
City Hall split into smaller groups to allow participants to have discussions on how to make the system more secure.
TTCriders said it would release recommendations in the coming days.