The looming TTC fare hike has turned buying and depositing fares into an emotionally charged process — and it’s bringing out the worst in some people. Recently, I saw a heated confrontation at College station where a customer yelled at an Asian booth collector, “Go back to Chinatown.”
This occurred after hearing from a Metro reader who said his girlfriend witnessed a racist comment made by a subway collector at St. Clair station. When token sales were restricted in early November to five each, the booth attendant allegedly told a customer it was because Chinese people were hoarding token rolls. When told the comment was racist, the collector repeated it.
Just shy of 2010 — in one of the most diverse cities on the planet — how isolated are such incidents?
There is little formal recourse when a customer makes a discriminatory remark, but what if the words come from a uniformed employee working for a public agency?
In a largely positive review of the TTC, a Metro Ottawa transit columnist reported how a subway collector at Union station ridiculed his British accent.
Is there any point in reporting bigoted comments? As discussed here many times, the TTC is restricted by labour agreements from telling customers how personnel are disciplined.
Officially, complainants can be told only that the issue was “dealt with accordingly.” With no evidence, riders are basically told, “Trust us, we take your concerns seriously.”
That’s about what TTC spokesperson Brad Ross gave me when I followed up on the St. Clair case. He would not divulge how the specific allegation was processed, nor would he reveal general numbers about discipline, such as how many employees are reprimanded, suspended or fired.
I was unable to speak with transit union president Bob Kinnear for this column, but he has stated in the past that, for privacy and safety reasons, customers cannot be told details of discipline against individual workers. He has also complained that TTC customer representatives do in fact reveal more than allowed.
If nothing can be formally divulged, how are we to know if any real measures are taken? Ironically, it is Kinnear who offers the only indication: He has said that TTC supervisors routinely treat customer complaints as “gospel;” their validity is rarely questioned.
Readers, if you have experienced what you believe is racial discrimination while using transit, let me know. If possible, send copies of official complaints.
Toronto-based transport writer Ed Drass covers transit issues every Monday; email@example.com.