Toronto is looking to hire 178 new frontline staff, including 161 “highly visible” customer-facing personnel across the TTC as part of a suite of measures to bolster safety on the transit system moving forward, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow says.

“When I was first elected, I met with TTC CEO Rick Leary and told him that my priority for TTC is a faster and safer system, which means more staff on TTC,” Chow said Wednesday standing alongside TTC CEO Rick Leary and TTC Chair Jamaal Myers  at a news conference to announce the proposals. “More staff means more eyes and ears inside the stations. They can respond to incidents early and quickly. They can also deter incidents.”

The measures are being proposed in a report coming before the TTC board next week and would be funded in part from money that was set aside for this year to operate the delayed Eglinton Crosstown line.

The report recommends using $10.3 million in projected 2023 savings to hire new high-visibility customer service agents and bus, streetcar and subway supervisors.

It also proposes extending a number of safety and security initiatives that were launched earlier this year, such as having Streets to Homes outreach personnel in the system to work with people experiencing homelessness, community safety ambassadors, de-escalation training for staff and temporary security guards.

Leary said he’s gotten to know Chow and her staff over the past few weeks and that they have been working well together.

“Our discussions, I can tell you, have been incredibly productive,” Leary said. “And we clearly share common goals to improve service, safety and security across the TTC. Together we are making progress working to ensure that the TTC is safer, faster and more reliable.”

He said the strategy being sent to the board for approval also includes temporary shelter buses driven by TTC operators “to assist individuals sheltering in subway stations to get out of the cold and into proper shelter beds.”

The report also recommends completing the onboarding of 50 more special constables by the end of this year in order to provide a “rapid response” to security incidents, and adding six more dispatchers to maintain all-day coverage of the Transit Control security desk.

Staff are also recommending hiring a program manager to oversee the development of a five-year “Community Safety and Well-being Plan,” which would include a review of all TTC security operations and best practices from other jurisdictions.

“Community safety and the well-being of employees and customers are of paramount importance to the TTC,” Myers said. “Adding more TTC customer service agents in stations, and having more comprehensive supervisory coverage, are tangible ways to improve the safety and well-being of customers and transit operators.

He thanked staff for the “comprehensive proposal” which will be considered at the next board meeting on Sept. 26.”

Safety on the transit system was a major theme during the mayoral election this year following a string of incidents on TTC vehicles and property which included fatalities and serious injuries.

“We do know that major crime indicators are trending down according to the dashboard of the city, but we can't and we do not take that for granted,” Leary said. “These high-profile incidents that occurred over the last 18 months – they are of concern to all of us. And that's why that we proposed the report that we did last night.”