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People in Toronto no longer feel safe on the TTC after deadly attacks on women

Debates surrounding the safety of the TTC have been reawakened once again following the fatal stabbing of a 31-year-old woman onboard a train at High Park Subway Station last week. 

Just after 2 p.m. on Dec. 8, Toronto police reported that a man stabbed two adult women on a subway train. Vanessa Kurpiewska, 31, of Toronto was pronounced dead at the hospital, and another 37-year-old woman was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. 

Neng Jia Jin, 52, was charged with first degree murder and attempted murder. 

Toronto police also announced that the attacker and victims were not known to each other, meaning the incident was most likely random and unprovoked. 

Just one day later, Toronto police reported that a person with a knife was onboard an eastbound train at Chester Subway Station, leading to even more discourse about what the TTC plans on doing to address this heightened level of violence. 

Another random instance of violence onboard a TTC vehicle took place on June 17, when Tenzin Norbu, 33, poured an accelerant on Nima Dolma, 28, lit her on fire and fled the scene.

Dolma was placed on life support but ultimately succumbed to her injuries two weeks later. 

In April, a shocking video from Bloor-Yonge station showed a 39-year-old victim being pushed onto the subway tracks by another woman. The victim sustained injuries from the fall and went on to sue the TTC for negligence. 

Other violent incidents this year include the murder of international student Kartik Vasudev, 21, who was shot multiple times outside Sherbourne Subway Station on April 7. 

In a press conference last week, Mayor John Tory said that despite the horrific event that took place at High Park Subway Station, the TTC remains a "very safe system." 

"What we have to do is make sure that they are reminded of the fact that we have a very safe transit system and that the understandable anxiety that comes from a tragedy like this is having some increased physical presence of people on the trains and in the stations," Tory said. 

"Toronto is still a very safe city, the transit system is one of the safest transit systems in North America and will continue to be," he added. 

This reassurance wasn't good enough for some people, who suggested that having enforcement officers at every station might be a better solution. 

The TTC provided a statement on the police investigation following the High Park station stabbings, writing that, "the TTC moves hundreds of millions of customers every year without incident, but is constantly looking at ways to improve safety." 

In addition, the TTC listed several safety features and programs in place to deter and address these incidents, including: 

  • Transit Special Constable strategically patrolling the system to deter and respond to security incidents 
  • Working with Toronto Police Service to increase their presence across the system 
  • Cameras and emergency alarms in all stations and vehicles 
  • Two-way communications systems on platforms in the Designated Waiting Areas 
  • Uniformed staff through the system who can contact transit control directly to assist customers 
  • The SafeTTC app to report suspicious incidents in real time 
  • Transit control centre has a direct line to 9-1-1 to respond to emergencies 
  • Modernizing stations to add more cameras and have more staff visible to deter criminal acts

It remains to be seen whether such measures will have an impact on safety and end the violence like we've seen this past year but one thing is for sure that many people don't feel safe and could depend on alternative modes of transport until there's meaningful improvement.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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