Toronto mayoral candidate Brad Bradford has released his plan to address safety in the city’s transit system, which includes fast-tracking the installation of subway platform barriers and bringing cell service underground.
Bradford unveiled Thursday his four-point action policy named “SafeTTC Now.” He said his plan was made in consultation with transit experts, mental health and addiction leader and public safety professionals.
“Toronto is at a breaking point. People do not feel safe riding the TTC right now,” Bradford said.
“I will be a strong mayor of action to deliver safe transit for the residents of Toronto.”
Safety on the TTC has become one of the top issues for candidates hoping to become Toronto’s mayor following violent incidents in the past few months. The most recent one was the fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Gabriel Magalhaes at Keele subway station.
Bradford said platform barriers and subway cell service have been discussed and debated for years as ways to improve TTC safety, but they are examples “where too much talk and not enough action has made our city less safe.”
In his plan, Bradford said he would expedite the installation of the barriers when he becomes mayor, putting them up at high-volume stations such as Bloor-Yonge, Eglinton, Finch and St. George.
“You go into Yonge and Bloor right now people have their backs against the wall. And that’s because they’re concerned that they will be pushed or fall onto the tracks. Cities around the world have platform edge doors,” he said.
According to TTC staff, installing barriers will cost an estimated $1.35 billion, which is not currently funded. When asked how he would pay for it, Bradford acknowledged the high cost and said he said he would start with priority stations.
“I’ve talked with transit experts both here in the country and abroad. There are cheaper, more affordable ways to do that. We really just need a barrier to prevent people from going onto the track. So I’m committed to finding a way to do that.”
Bradford is also promising that TTC riders will finally be able to use their phones underground by bringing cell service across the subway. He noted that Toronto has fallen behind other cities on the matter.
The TTC already has the infrastructure to provide cell service, but none of the major telecommunication companies have signed on. Bradford did not indicate in his plan how he would convince the telecoms but said he would begin by going over the contract with BAI Communications, which signed the deal with the TTC in 2012 to install the infrastructure.
“The original contract required them to provide cell service to 60 per cent of the customers. That is clearly not the experience today. And cellular service is both necessary for safety, but also for convenience,” he said.
“I will deliver cell service for Torontonians who are riding the rocket, making sure that they have access to technology, making sure that they can get those messages when it comes to safety immediately. That has to be a priority.
Fellow mayoral candidate Ana Bailao has previously said that she would pressure Bell, Rogers and Telus into providing the service by cancelling $30 million worth of city contracts with the three telecommunication companies.
The other priorities in Bradford’s plan are boosting security and safety patrols on the TTC and creating a new agency to help people in distress.
Bradford plans to deploy 40 new special constables in hotpot stations and noted it will be funded through the 2023 budget. He also hopes to add at least 50 new frontline police officers in areas surrounding the hotspot locations.
In January, in response to the string of violent incidents, Toronto police officers were brought on the TTC. However, the patrols ended earlier in March as the service did not have money for them.
“I spent the morning riding transit talking to people today. They are much more comfortable when they see that safety and security presence,” he said.
Bradford said he will also create the “There For You Toronto” agency to improve mental health resources. He aims to bring together more than 100 mental health and crisis outreach workers.
He added that the new agency will combine city programs like Mobile Crisis Intervention, Streets to Home, the Multi-Disciplinary Outreach Program and FOCUS Toronto “to bridge the gaps.”
“By combining efforts and adding front-line staff, the City can ensure these programs and partner organizations have the resources required to meet demand,” he said in a news release.
Bradford was one of the 28 candidates who filed their nomination papers on Monday. Two more people submitted their candidacy on Tuesday, including former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes.
Election Day is on June 26.