TTC suggestion tactless

The shooting of a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway fare collector on Sunday has raised concerns about the safety of transit workers, and prompted Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to suggest the TTC pursue automated fare collection.

While the TTC should pursue automation for sake of efficiency, they first need to secure the safety of their subway system.

After an unsuccessful robbery, a gunman fired three shots into the booth of fare collector William Anderson, striking him twice in the neck and shoulder. After undergoing emergency surgery, Anderson is expected to make a full recovery.

The shooting took place at Dupont Station which was recently robbed on two separate occasions, once in June and again in October. All three incidents are believed to have been the work of the same culprit. The first two robberies ended without violence after booth operators handed over their money. Anderson refused, prompting the gunman to shoot.

Ford has a point. If fare collection had been automated, Anderson wouldn’t have been shot. But when someone has been hospitalized with a serious injury, it’s callous to suggest that he and his colleagues should be out of a job.

If the well-being of TTC workers is in jeopardy, then the City needs to work to make them safe. Removing human fare collectors doesn’t solve a basic crime problem, and the people still present — TTC patrons — are still at risk.

Taking operators out of a dangerous situation doesn’t remove danger itself.

The Globe and Mail reported on Feb. 28 that the average TTC worker is assaulted twice a day, ranging from verbal to physical attacks. Switching to automated machines in the wake of the Dupont shooting would suggest that the TTC can’t keep their workers safe.

The TTC should pursue automation, but as a means of modernizing the service, not to improve worker safety alone. Having fare collection machines would be a more efficient system, but there are benefits to having a human presence as well.

They’re an authority and safety figure in a station, trained to operate the station’s heart defibrillator and contact help in the event of an emergency.

The shooting at Dupont Station presents a safety problem for the TTC. The service should work towards automation, but they need to immediately improve the safety conditions of the workers they employ.

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