By Shira Ragosin
For a while now TTC riders have been asking the Transit Commission to make their experience not only better, but also safer. In September, the TTC launched a campaign in an attempt to address customer concerns.
The #thisiswhere is now a regular sight for regular commuters with conversation starting posters glaring at riders on buses, subways, streetcars and pretty much every platform covered by the TTC.
This campaign strives to increase user safety on board the transit. The goal is to combat harassment by increasing public awareness of what to do if they encounter sexual harassment, discrimination, or suspicious behaviour. Additionally, the TTC has introduced a SafeTTC app designed to allow an easy and anonymous way of reporting harassment.
Also, the social media aspect of the campaign focuses on stories, accounting for incidents that have taken place during individual commute experiences in the TTC.
But does launching an app and pasting catchy posters actually spell success for an anti-harassment campaign?
Shanikqua Phillip, Office in Training Coordinator at the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line (SASSL) at York University is hopeful about the new campaign. Phillip commented on how “actually talking about experiences is long overdue”.
“It’s interesting the TTC is actually taking a response to customers.” But she also questions how the app is going to correct what’s been happening for a while: “It may be ‘too little too late’ for those users who have already experienced harassment.”
So, does the introduction of the SafeTTC app actually make people feel safer?
Julia Levy, Business and Psychology student at York University said: “It [kind of] makes me feel less safe knowing that harassment exists in the public transportation in Toronto,”.
Julia mentioned the TTC is hitting all of those real social issues, but not in the most effective way as they are promoting stereotypes using explicit stories.
Many TTC users who have flocked to Twitter seem to have similar opinions. While some Twitter users applaud the Transit Commission for its inclusivity of races and gender, others have lashed out for the same.
A Twitter user @kpendras, posted: “Can the TTC’s #Thisiswhere campaign be [freaking] removed? How [freaking] triggering."
But according to many riders, there are other issues they feel are being neglected by the TTC.
Another TTC user @zaraforPM commented on safety concerns versus fare enforcers vis Twitter: “TTC cares more when you’re 5 cents short on fare than when you’re being harassed / assaulted”.
Other Twitter users seem to enjoy the humour this hashtag invites, especially in regard to the TTC’s actual transit services, which can seem ‘poor and inconsistent’ at times.
Given the publics reactions, it seems like there is a lot more to be done to increase safety for TTC users.
One suggestion is that TTC subway train operators and bus drivers should receive more training. That way, operators and drivers will know how to respond and what to do in instances of sexual assault or harassment.
METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children) , an organization that helps to end gender-based violence, has conducted safety audits with the TTC in the past. Major outcomes from their audits include the initiated “Designated Waiting Areas and Requested Stop Program”, as listed on their website here.
The SafeTTC app seems like a good first step in the right direction towards safety, there still seems to be much room for improvement.
While the #thisiswhere campaign is getting the conversation started, it will be interesting to see the effects the campaign has in the long run and how the Transit Commission responds to individuals complaints against harassment in the TTC.