The union representing front line workers at the Toronto Transit Commission says that TTC management should consult with the public, particularly TTC riders, before forging ahead with a plan to eliminate subway guards.
Toronto Transit Workers’ Local 113 President Bob Kinnear reacted to a recent survey by Mainstreet Research that found two-thirds of Toronto residents oppose removing the guards due to safety and security concerns. Only 9% of those surveyed supported the TTC plan.; the balance was undecided.
The union commissioned the poll but did not determine how it would be conducted or how it would affect the methodology Mainstreet used. The union also commissioned focus groups on the issue earlier this year, conducted by another opinion research firm, Corbett Communications.
“Almost everyone in the focus groups was shocked to learn of the TTC’s plan. And when they learned that the cost of the guard was less than five cents per TTC ride, they were quite adamant that this was a very small price to pay for an added layer of security and passenger assistance on the subway. The Mainstreet poll confirmed what the focus groups were saying. People do not like this idea at all.”
The poll revealed that people understand the critical role guards can be called on to perform, such as responding to medical emergencies and passenger alarms. Guards are also trained to lead tunnel evacuations in the event of a power outage or breakdown. As well, they monitor the Designated Waiting Area (DWA) on each platform and answer passenger questions. The guards are positioned near the back of the trains, close to the DWA, when the subway stops at a platform. The DWAs are especially used by women travelling alone at night and by passengers who need direction because they are unfamiliar with the system.
“Getting rid of the guard makes the DWAs more or less obsolete,” says Kinnear. “A camera cannot stop an assault, only record it. That’s not much of a reassurance to concerned passengers.”
TTC CEO Andy Byford recently wrote in the Toronto Star that eliminating the guards would save $18 million per year. That works out to 3.3 cents for each of the 540 million passengers expected to take the TTC in 2016.
Byford argued that eliminating the guards would not impact passenger safety at all and cited a handful of cities in other countries that have gone to one-person train operation. Byford also said that Toronto’s own Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) train has had one-person operation since it opened, with no apparent impact on safety.
“First of all, Andy Byford holds up London and Madrid as examples of cities with one-person operation but obviously forgot that hundreds of people were killed and thousands injured by terrorist attacks on these two cities’ transit systems. In recent years, there have been dozens of attacks against transit systems around the world operated. TTC management tells employees: ‘If you see something, say something,’ then cuts the people who could see that something. It makes no sense.
“Secondly, there is a huge difference between the TTC’s subway system, which has long trains that travel mainly in underground tunnels, and the SRT, which is a much shorter and is virtually all above ground.
“Eliminating the subway guard is a very fundamental change that worries the half billion passengers who take the TTC every year. It is not the kind of decision that should be made alone by Andy Byford and Mayor Tory, who has demanded TTC budget cuts at a time when transit is more important than ever,” Kinnear says.
“We challenge TTC management to conduct public meetings to discuss this issue and determine if passengers are willing to pay the extra 3.3 cents, which is one per cent of the cost of a single TTC cash fare of $3.25.
“Mr. Byford wants to save money, we get it, but cutting corners on passenger safety is not a very good idea and it defies common sense to claim that eliminating staff trained in security issues will have no impact on safety.”