Violent incidents against riders of Toronto’s transit system have increased by nearly 60 per cent since 2019, a new report from the commission's CEO finds.

Reports from the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) CEO Rick Leary reveal there were 1,068 offences against customers on the publicly funded system last year. The new data marks a 46 per cent increase over offences against customers recorded in 2021 (734) and a 60 per cent increase over incidents reported in 2019 (666).

The commission defines offences as the most serious incidents reported to police, which include assault, sexual assault, robbery, theft, threatening, harassment and indecent exposure.

In recent months, Toronto’s transit system has been at the centre of a string of violent – and, at times, seemingly random – crime, prompting increased enforcement and police presence, and leaving some riders to question their personal safety.

In the last month, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) notified the public of at least 17 different violent crimes against riders or employees of the system, and three individuals have been victims of attempted pushings at Toronto's busiest subway station, Bloor-Yonge. In the weeks before that, a string of muggings, assaults and a fatal stabbing at a west-end station prompted calls for national action.

A survey conducted by Nanos in early February revealed about 71 per cent of Ontarians currently feel less safe using public transportation than they did a year ago.

The rise in violent incidents comes as the transit system struggles to recover from pandemic ridership levels. According to the February report, ridership is currently sitting at 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. The commission hopes to see that percentage rise to 75 this year.

In an effort to reduce victimization and increase public safety, the commission has implemented a number of measures in recent weeks.

“Safety is paramount to all we do and the TTC moves hundreds of millions of trips every year without incident,” spokesperson Stuart Green said in a statement to CTV News Toronto.

“The recent rise in these serious, higher profile incidents is why we are working closely with the City of Toronto to deploy additional staff teams with expertise in addiction, mental health, housing and security. These teams provide a balanced approach that is responsive, preventative and compassionate,” he added.

The additional staff teams include an increased special constable and uniformed employee presence, 50 new city-contracted security guards, 20 new community safety ambassadors, and 80 additional Toronto police officers – the latter of which the city says can only be sustained financially through to the end of March.

On Feb. 7, advocacy organization TTCriders held a town hall discussion, attended by approximately 200 people virtually and in-person, providing a platform for transit users to discuss personal safety and propose solutions ahead of the 2023 municipal budget meeting.

Speakers included Gerstein Crisis Centre, Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, and the Chinese Canadian National Council of Toronto, among others, and many advocated for less enforcement and more funding for community support programs.

On Feb. 15, city council passed the proposed municipal budget with no major amendments, giving the TTC a $53M subsidy increase and TPS a $48M bugetary increase.