Amid a rash of violent incidents on TTC property, some riders are questioning the transit system’s “relaxing” branding strategy.
One iteration of the campaign, which has garnered attention on social media within the last couple of weeks, is an ad that shows a man taking a nap on board the TTC with the slogan: “Take a time out. Take the TTC. The relaxing, affordable choice.”
Some questioned the ad's choice of words – “Is this really what the TTC is promoting?” asked one Reddit user – and a spokesperson for the transit agency told CTV News Toronto the ads were planned back in 2021.
“These ads are planned months in advance and part of a ridership re-acquisition strategy,” senior communications specialist, Stuart Green, said in an emailed statement.
When asked how long the ads will be up for, Green said the “paid ads run into next month but we can leave them up on our system or take them down at our leisure.” At the moment, Green confirmed they won’t be taking the ads down.
Ridership plummeted during the pandemic, along with revenues, TTC staff said during a board meeting on Jan. 9, and both are taking longer than expected to see a return to normal.
The TTC has also been host to a surge of violent incidents recently.
Since Jan. 20, two riders have been stabbed on TTC vehicles, a man was arrested for allegedly attempting to push another individual onto subway tracks, and a woman fell down a set of stairs after someone tried to rob her of her purse.
In the same timeframe, a TTC employee was assaulted by a group of youth in a “swarming style attack,” another employee was shot with a BB gun pellet, and a group of workers were chased through Dundas station by a suspect with a syringe.
The rash of security incidents has reached a "crisis level," according to the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Canada, John Di Nino. Di Nino called for an establishment of a national transit safety task force.
In response to the violence on the city’s transit system, Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw, alongside Mayor John Tory and TTC CEO Rick Leary, said they will increase police presence.
“In recent weeks, we have been actively increasing our high-visibility patrols within the transit system. However, it is clear that more can be done to enhance the safety and security of transit users,” Demkiw said.
Eighty police officers will be deployed on the TTC network daily, which Demkiw says will focus on reducing victimization, preventing crimes of opportunity, and enhancing public safety.
The TTC Board approved a proposed $2.38 billion TTC budget earlier this month that includes millions of dollars to hire new special constables to improve safety for riders and transit employees. Some advocates, however, have said the budget – containing a 10 cent fare hike and nine per cent service decrease compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels to address to $366 million budget shortfall – raises safety concerns.
With files from CTV Toronto’s Phil Tsekouras and CP24’s Joshua Freeman