Before I start this article I want to preface by saying that I think that relative to other places in the world, Canadians/ Ontarians/ Torontonians are pretty lucky to call the True North home. We live in a progressive country, we're blessed to be exposed to an array of cultures and diversity and when it comes to feeling safe- Canada is 100% on top of ensuring that citizens can live, work and play without concern.
With that out of the way, we can't deny that of recent, 2018 has seemed like a pretty intense year for violence, internal terror attacks and general unrest. While we're in the great position of having systems and people in place that ensure our safety is a priority - it also feels as though there's a high level of incidents happening in Ontario and across Canada in general.
With that in mind, GTA commuters who use the GO Transit might see this reflected in the increased warnings that have been playing as commuters move through the city.
If you frequently use the GO Transit you might be accustomed to hearing warnings about not crossing the train tracks, spreading out on platforms to avoid overcrowding, minding the gap between the platform and the entrance of the train, etc.
These are pretty tame warnings that don't really cause any concern since they are pretty much common sense commuter warnings.
However, recently, there have been new messages added to the roster and they're a little more cautionary.
One addition has been the yellow line warning, which urges GO Transit users to stay far behind the yellow lines on loading platforms. Which makes sense when losing your balance so close to the tracks could be deadly. But we've also seen stories of people getting pushed on to the tracks this year on the TTC - which according to TTC spokesman Brad Ross hasn't happened since 1997. So this could also be the reason that the message has been circulated so heavily on their PA systems of recent.
They've also stepped up the number of Transit Safety Officers, especially at Toronto's Union Station which is the destination and departure point for over 90% of all GO Transit commuters and sees 254,644 daily riders. This isn't 100% in response to the violence happening in the city though. In 2015 GO Transit released an action plan on increasing safety on their transit systems and one of the promises was to make sure that there was an increased presence of safety officers.
There are also cement guardrails around high volume areas of the city, protecting pedestrians as they walk around places like Union Station. Which sprung up after the van attack at Finch Station earlier this year.
Finally, the most recent advisory is about bags left on transit. Just this morning as the 8:13 AM Lakeshore West train departed from Union Station it played the standard above mentioned messages but also added one about unattended bags left on the train.
In a very friendly message, GO Transit asked riders to keep an eye out for unattended bags during their trip and that while these items were probably just accidentally left behind, that it was better to be safe rather than sorry and report the unattended item.
Unfortunately, Ontario has had to deal with issues of unattended bags on transit causing harm to transit users, and there were also pretty major incidents that happened in London and New York within the past year. It's not far-fetched to believe that all of that combined could be why transit safety officials are asking riders to be more aware of their surroundings.
All of this is to say, that while these safety precautions are extremely justified and are a necessity in order to ensure travelers are safe around the city, it also proves that Toronto is just not like it used to be.
Maybe I speak for myself when I say that it doesn't feel unsafe to move around the Greater Toronto Area- but it's easy to see that we're no longer as carefree of a community as we might once have been.
And while it might be that incidents happening around the city are just getting more attention now that social media and digital news exists, rather than the city actually being more dangerous - it does feel like security measures throughout the province have definitely stepped up.
For anyone commuting around the city using GO Transit - if you do happen to see something suspicious, someone needs medical attention or you uncover safety hazards during your commute; you can call (416)338-8000 for assistance or speak to a GO Transit staff member in person.