More than a quarter of Torontonians don’t feel safe taking transit alone according to new poll

There has been no shortage of headline grabbing incidents on Toronto transit, as well as at or near TTC stations and it’s starting to get to us, according to a new Ipsos poll.

The survey found that the majority of Canadians still felt safe taking public transit, it is cause for concern.

“Although the majority of Canadians report feeling safe when using public transit, more Canadians say they feel safe transiting with friends or family (73%, 40% somewhat/33% very) than when they do so alone (62%, 40% somewhat/22% very). However, this means one-quarter say they feel unsafe taking public transit alone (27%, 19% somewhat/8% very),” read the Ipsos report.

In late January, following a string of four incidents in six days, the city of Toronto and the TTC moved to step up security measures on transit including an increase of 50 security guards who “have daily experience dealing with underhoused people in crisis and have advanced training in areas including.” In addition to, deescalation training for TTC staff and other initiatives.

“The safety of our customers and our employees remains our top priority. Everyone should feel safe riding the TTC. We all know that solutions to these issues need to be multi-faceted,” said TTC chair and city councillor Jon Burnside, at the time. “The ongoing collaboration with the City of Toronto is one more way we are addressing the security and safety challenges.”

While some suggest more security or policing is a negative, others look to New York City, which was having a similar issue with violent incidents and stepped up policing efforts, which resulted in a 16 per cent drop in subway crime in a relatively short period of time.

Former TTC chair and columnist for Post City magazines dedicate a column to the issue. She wrote, in part:

“Increasing the presence of officers being visible throughout the system is critical. There were a few things that happened before and during the pandemic that have created a downward spiral for ridership, and having a more visible presence of police and transit security will help stem the loss and could help reverse the trend.”

According to the TTC, 14 new special constables were slated to begin work on public transit on Feb. 28.

The Ipsos poll also pointed out that over half of respondents say “recent acts of violence are part of a wider trend in Canada.” It’s not just Toronto, but GTA residents are more likely than other areas to take action to “ensure safety.”

Residents of Toronto specifically are more likely at 44 percent when compared to the rest of Canada (27%) to say they feel unsafe taking public transit alone. While 17 percent of Torontonians are avoiding taking transit entirely and 26 percent are using transit less as a result of recent violent incidents, compared to 14 and 13 percent across the country.

The Ipsos poll was conducted between Feb. 15 and 17, 2023 using a sample of 1,350 Canadians aged 18+ (including a sample of n = 500 GTA residents).

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