TTC risking passenger safety to save no more than three cents a ride, says union

TORONTO, ONTARIO – (February 26, 2020) – Toronto Transit Commission riders will be at much higher risk if the TTC follows through with its plan to eliminate one of the two crew members on a subway train, says Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents more than 12,000 TTC workers.

In a new poll by Mainstreet Research, two thirds of all Torontonians disapprove of TTC management’s plan to reduce subway crews by eliminating the subway guard position. Close to six in 10 say it is “extremely/very important” that Torontonians agree with any plan to reduce crew sizes, while more than eight in 10 Torontonians (84%) want meaningful public input into TTC safety planning.

The full Mainstreet Research poll can be read here.

TTC plans to eliminate subway guard or second crew person despite their important safety role

The TTC’s plan, to be implemented on Line 1 Yonge-University in 2022, will eliminate the subway guard who performs a wide range of safety-related functions while the operator drives the train.

The TTC acknowledges that it is planning to phase out the guards but has downplayed the impact this has on public safety.

However, ATU Local 113 notes that in addition to ensuring riders enter and exit the train safely, the guard provides a crucial set of eyes scanning the platform, watching for people being harassed or attacked, for lost children, for people with mobility issues or for distressed individuals who appear suicidal.

Guards have intervened to stop the train in cases where a passenger has fallen into the gap between the subway and the platform and is in danger of serious injury. Guard interventions have also rescued passengers from assaults by ensuring police are called to the scene. In the case of medical emergencies – on the platform or inside a moving train – guards are first responders.

Some passengers choose to ride in the back car where the guard is located since the presence of the guard helps deter aggressive or unruly behaviour. Perhaps most importantly, guards are trained to lead an emergency evacuation of passengers through a darkened tunnel where there is a live third rail, in the event a train is stranded due to a fire, a power outage or other threat to public safety.

In December 2019, passengers were forced to evacuate a TTC train when a fire broke out inside the tunnel near Dundas West station.

“The emergency underground subway evacuation near Dundas West station is an important reminder that having just one worker onboard a subway train – often crammed with hundreds of riders – is unsafe for the public,” said Carlos Santos, President of ATU Local 113. “The TTC must prioritize safety over cost cutting.”

One-person crews have been in operation since 2016 on the less-travelled Line 4 Sheppard Line – and the results raise serious safety concerns. There has been a significant increase in red light violations by train operators – not surprising since these operators are responsible for not just driving the train but also opening and closing the doors while carrying out all other duties related to passenger safety.

Red light violations are extremely dangerous. They occur when a train fails to stop at a red light signal, proceeding despite the presence of something or someone on the track.

When the TTC introduced one-person crews on the Line 4 Sheppard line, it did not alert the public to the change, nor address possible safety concerns.

On the contrary, the TTC has argued that eliminating the guard will improve safety by reducing injuries to guards from opening and shutting the train window in order to observe the platform. The union denies that this has been an issue.

The TTC also appears to be trying to save money. But an analysis done by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that eliminating the guard on Line 1 Yonge-University would save only about three cents a ride – perhaps less when weighed against the cost of adding more station managers.

The union notes that station managers will be unable to respond as quickly and effectively as guards located right on the trains and will likely lead not just to compromised safety but to additional train slowdowns.

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