ttc violence

People in Toronto are starting to avoid the TTC amid a rash of random violent attacks

It's been a rough few weeks for the Toronto Transit Commission, through no fault of the agency's own, with a rash of seemingly random, unprovoked and unconnected violent attacks making headlines at a near-daily pace.

Less than two weeks ago, on the evening of April 7, 21-year-old international student Kartik Vasudev was shot to death at the TTC's Sherbourne Subway Station while heading to his part-time job.

Police later revealed that Vasudev, as well as another man who was killed in similar fashion two days later, had both been randomly attacked by a complete stranger.

"We have nothing to suggest he knew either one of them," said Detective Sergeant Terry Browne of TPS Homicide when announcing an arrest in the case last week.

"It was a chance meeting, a chance passing, and for reasons that are only known to the suspect, these two people were victimized on that day, and now are dead."

This morning, still reeling from the news a terrifying subway shoving incident at Bloor-Yonge Station, Toronto residents woke up learn that a 30-year-old man had been stabbed in the neck while waiting on the platform at St. George Station.

Police say that this later "unprovoked attack" took place around 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday night while the victim was engaged in conversation with another person. He sustained serious injuries and police are actively searching for a suspect.

On April 4, a woman was assaulted at Bayview Station. On April 12, someone was violently robbed at Pioneer Station. On April 9, police arrested a man who was "assaulting random citizens on the southbound platform" at Dundas Station.

I could go on and on, because violent crimes happen all the time, all over Toronto (and every other major urban centre) in public and private spaces well beyond the confines of our transit system.

Assaults on the TTC are relatively uncommon compared to how many hundreds of millions of people ride the red rocket each year without incident. But the recent rash of high-profile, random attacks has put Toronto residents on high alert.

Fearful in recent years of catching a potentially deadly virus on public transit vehicles, riders are now starting to worry about things like being shoved onto the tracks by a random stranger... or worse.

A recent analysis from the Toronto Star shows that bus drivers are far more likely than passengers to experience random abuse, but that violent incidents happen on the system almost every day, from stabbings and punchings to people having their hair set on fire.

Factoring in issues related to overcrowding and the COVID pandemic, some people simply no longer feel safe riding the TTC — bus, streetcar or subway train.

And they're not making mountains out of molehills.

Sketchy stuff is part of big city life, sure, but there's quantifiable evidence to show that violence has been getting worse on some Toronto transit vehicles lately.

The Star reports that criminal and bylaw offences on TTC buses, specifically, had been declining for years until 2020, when COVID hit. Then, in 2021, the number shot up from 173 to 312.

This is significantly higher than the number of offences recorded in 2019, pre-pandemic, when only 249 people were attacked.

Assaults are up across the board in the City of Toronto, according to the TPS public safety data portal, rising 9.4 per cent this year to date from the year previous, which may explain at least part of this problem.

Critics of the city and the TTC, however, are placing the blame on job cuts and other management choices.

"Safety is paramount to all we do and the TTC is safe by any global measurement," said TTC spokesperson Stuart Green to blogTO.

"We move hundreds of millions customers every year without incident, but we never take that for granted which is why we are continually looking at ways to make the system even safer."

Green says that the TTC is in the process of hiring 56 additional special constables that were approved in 2021, and that numerous safety features and programs are already in place for customers and employees.

There are cameras in every station and on every vehicle with more on the way, as well two-way communication systems on patforms, the SafeTTC app and "uniformed staff who can contact transit control directly to assist customers."

"On a daily basis, we have 40 to 50 Special Constables strategically patrolling the system and we use all incidents to gather intelligence and inform our tactical deployment," said Green.

"In the wake of these recent incidents, we are focusing resources in and around the subway system to both give customers an added sense of safety and security as well as to respond in the unlikely event of a safety incident."

Some riders fear that it's too little, too late, and want an increased police presence across the system right away.

Many are blaming the city for failing to help people struggling with mental health and housing issues.

People have also taken to sharing their own scary Toronto public transit experiences in light of the recent random attacks.

"One time a woman spat in my face in Union station. I was minding my own business just looking down at my phone. Couldn't find security anywhere," wrote one Twitter user. "Other people on the platform I saw witness the incident said they saw nothing when I asked if they just saw what happened to me."

"I had someone whip a water bottle at my face once," wrote another. "Unprovoked — totally random."

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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