ttc subway smell

Someone pulled the TTC emergency alarm because a passenger smelled bad

If you've never gagged while riding public transit, you don't live in Toronto (or New York or Paris, for that matter.)

For 99 per cent of workers in any big city—you know, those of us who don't have chauffeured town cars—horrible smells are just a part of life, and nowhere are the smells more horrible than on buses, subways and streetcars.

Is breathing in the smell of stale pee and body odour uncomfortable? Yes. Can it prompt riders to get off three stops early and walk through the bitter cold instead? For sure. But are such smells worth calling the cops over? No, say the cops.

Toronto Police are reminding people of this in the wake of an incident at Queen Station on Thursday evening that saw a subway rider pull an emergency assistance alarm because another passenger "smelled."

Constable David Hopkinson said that someone activated the alarm while aboard a subway train around 7:40 p.m. on Thursday, bringing the busy Line 1 to a halt as conductors were forced to wait for police, fire and EMS to respond, as per policy. 

Hopkinson told Global that Toronto Police decided to share the incident report via Twitter to remind everyone that passenger assistance alarms are for emergencies only.

"You have absolutely every right to complain, but using the passenger assistance alarm is not for that," he said. "With passenger assistance alarms, we assume that it's an emergency—somebody is having a medical episode, their life is in danger, they're being attacked, there's some kind of accident in the station."

Being that serious incidents do happen all over the city every day, it's more than waste of resources to call emergency responders to a smelly subway car: It could actually cost someone else in a dangerous situation their life.

Some who were on the subway car in question last night say that the alarm was justified.

"I was on this train today. Smell is putting it lightly," wrote one person on Reddit in response to the police tweet. "I walked several cars down and still couldn’t escape it. I've smelled my fair share of downtown hobos and stale piss but this was something else entirely."

"There is a guy who frequently rides the subway... who had a plastic bag around his foot. He literally smells of rotting flesh," wrote someone else. "It's hard to breath in the same car as him. TTC cannot or will not do anything about him. He is a regular."

Police did not deny that rank smells are a problem on the TTC, but say that these things should be reported to a train guard, conductor or TTC staff member, as opposed to the underground of equivalent of calling 911.

If common decency isn't enough to deter you, please note that misuse of the alarm can also land you a $500 fine. Police did not specify who the alarm-puller was, or if they were ticketed as a result of the incident.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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