TTC investigating after frustrated man in wheelchair faces off with bus after lengthy wait
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Monday, July 11, 2016 7:23PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 11, 2016 8:02PM EDT
The TTC is investigating after a wheelchair-bound Syrian refugee waited at a bus stop for about 90 minutes without being able to board a vehicle because they were all too crowded.
Mohamad Alhajabdullah said he was trying to get his son to the dentist on July 5 as he waited for the 45 Kipling bus at Kipling Avenue and Redcliff Boulevard.
Several buses passed by, but all were too crowded for him to board, so Alhajabdullah and his son waited in the sweltering weather, a heat alert in effect, and watched the jam-packed buses go by.
Eventually, he decided to make himself more conspicuous, wheeling out in front of a jam-packed bus and refusing to move.
“I go in front of the bus. I tell her ‘sorry, madam. I won’t move from here if you don’t find a solution for me,’” said Alhajabdullah, who has used a wheelchair since his spine was severed in a suicide attack in Damascus two years ago. “If I keep silent, there is no one who would know what happens with me.”
After a 10-minute delay, a passenger on the bus eventually called an accessible cab. But not before one of the passengers exiting the bus snapped a photo of the scene and posted it to Twitter.
“No one offered to get off or try to help,” said Charlie Mitchko, who uploaded the photo to the microblogging site.
Mitchko, who frequently uses the route, said it’s not uncommon for buses to be jam-packed and said he saw a number of other passengers squeeze into the hot bus before Alhajabdullah could try to board.
On Monday, TTC spokesman Brad Ross said the TTC has protocols to make sure passengers with disabilities are not left stranded and managers are looking into the incident.
“If a bus is unable to accommodate someone in a wheelchair because the bus is full, the operator is to call our transit control centre to inquire if the following bus is able to accommodate an individual,” Ross said. “In other words, if the following bus is full and if it is unable to accommodate, then we’re supposed to call WheelTrans and we will make arrangements for that individual to get a ride. That didn’t happen. We need to understand why.”
Ross said that while the 45 Kipling route is known to be busy, service is also supposed to be frequent.
“Reports from this individual are that they waited for a number of buses and waited for a long time between buses so there are a number of things we need to better understand based on the information we’ve been provided,” he said.
Speaking with CP24 outside a TTC board meeting at city hall Monday, transit advocates said that situations such as the one Alhajabdullah found himself in shouldn’t occur.
“We do recognize also that at rush hour buses can be full, but six buses to go by – that is not acceptable,” said Mazin Aribi, chair of the TTC’s advisory committee for accessible transit.
Ross said that two spots on every bus are usually reserved for accessible seating, however bus drivers do not make passengers move if the vehicle is crowded at rush hour.
The TTC is in the midst of a transformation toward becoming fully accessible. All buses currently have accessible low floors to accommodate wheelchairs. All TTC streetcar routes are expected to be wheelchair accessible by 2019 and all subway stations are expected to be accessible by 2025.