Vulnerability and public transit

by: Joy


Every day, I spend nearly two and a half hours on public transit. It’s scary to think that at any given day, I could be the reason for a subway delay.

Public transportation is, in and of itself, unsafe. You’re exposed to a lot of people in a crowded space, so it goes without saying that you need to stay alert, hold on to your belongings and watch out for suspicious activity. But lately, I have found myself keeping an eye out for just about everyone.

With the significant rise in random, unprovoked, violent and sometimes fatal attacks within the Toronto transit system, it's no wonder that I've been increasingly on edge. 

I used to put my noise cancelling headphones on to calm my anxiety of travelling on public transit but now I have to keep listening for threats of violence or raised voices. I have to be vigilant so I don't get randomly assaulted, stabbed, set on fire or pushed onto the tracks. All of which has actually happened to other random, innocent individuals much like myself.

It's no coincidence that violence in the transit system has gone up as numerous shelters continue to be shut down. Watching homeless camps get demolished and seeing the last items of someone’s life be forcefully taken and thrown away keeps me wondering:


what results does the city expect?


Those without a home end up seeking shelter from the cold in transit stations as a last resort.

Instead of helping people in need, the city sees them as a problem that must be “removed” and “dealt with”. Dealing with this issue is not putting officers in the subway. Because what are these police officers going to do? Respond to violence with more violence?

I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels even more unsafe with the presence of officers in the subway. If I get assaulted (and I almost have been), the tackling and arresting of my attacker would actually traumatize me more. That wouldn’t better the situation and I know that many of those who resort to these violent and often senseless attacks are those that the system has failed to help. This is their cry for help that is more often than not, left unanswered.

I would much rather not be assaulted in the first place. I would rather know that the city is taking preventative measures because going to work or school shouldn’t feel like a roulette game. I am an at-risk female that lives alone, my life is unsafe as it is and I knew this when I was leaving my abusive family. I knew that seeking a better life on my own would be risky at times, but going to school shouldn’t be a risk. Staying in an abusive environment shouldn’t be the safer option. It’s scary to think that my life depends on a stranger’s ability to not act on their intrusive thoughts. 

I hope these unprovoked attacks stop but more importantly, I hope that putting officers in the subway is not the only course of action that the city taking. I hope that the city will be able to see these attacks for what they truly are and give resources to those who need it most because only then will we all truly feel safer. 

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