in April a woman was pushed onto the tracks at the Yonge/Bloor subway station in Toronto. She was able to get herself off the tracks before a train entered the station but suffered several injuries including a broken rib. The person who pushed her has been charged with attempted murder.
From a Vice News article of today’s date: “… (she) is also suing the TTC for $1 million because she says the agency didn’t do enough to prevent and respond to the incident.
Her statement of claim lists several alleged TTC failures, including the failure to implement adequate safety measures, respond to the emergency promptly, stop the subway train from driving onto the platform, and give emergency services access to the tracks to save her.”
Her claim is that it took about 30 minutes for the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) to move the train to give emergency personnel room to rescue her.
I use the subway system frequently and am familiar with the Yonge/Bloor station. This is a two-level station, being a transfer point between the north/south Yonge line and the east/west Bloor line. From the fact the article states Yonge/Bloor as opposed to Bloor/Yonge, it appears this lady was on the Bloor or east/west line. That station has a central platform with trains arriving on either side depending upon direction of travel. The platform is quite wide for this is a very busy station. Along the edge of the platform – and this is true for all stations on the system – is a yellow strip about 12 inches or so wide with raised bumps on the surface, a “rumble strip” for pedestrians kind of thing. It is common for people to stand at the inner edge of this strip while waiting for the train. For the record, I usually stand well back, against a wall if I can.
‘“… adequate safety measures”’, which she claimed were lacking. I know that some subway systems, Tokyo comes to mind, have a wall along the edge of the platform with sliding doors in this wall. The idea is the train stops in a certain spot and activating the car doors also activates the doors in the wall. I’m obviously not privy to discussions within the TTC’s boardroom so can’t say whether they have examined such a possibility for Toronto, but I believe that at one time they did consider it and dismissed it because of the cost involved.
Another of her claims was “…stop the subway train from driving onto the platform,” I feel that last part is reaching. A subway train isn’t a Honda Civic. You just can’t stop it that quickly. The subway platforms are 500 feet long and the trains only slightly shorter than that. I have my doubts that a train, moving at speed is going to be able to stop within its own length.
It is the defence filed by the TTC that really has me worked up. Again from the Vice article:
‘In its statement of defence, the TTC maintains that the woman is herself responsible, at least in part, in addition to the assailant.
According to the TTC’s statement, the woman “failed to take reasonable steps and precautions for her own safety and protection.” The statement says “she chose to stand close to the edge of the platform,” “failed to pay due care and attention to her surroundings,” and “was travelling alone and unassisted on public transit when she knew or ought to have known that it was unsafe for her to do so.”
Her lawyer disputed the claims.
“There is video evidence she wasn’t standing that close to the tracks,” the lawyer said, adding, “How can you claim to be doing everything you can safety-wise and then in the same breath say she wasn’t taking proper precautions—and proper precautions would have been travelling with somebody?”’
In response to that last part, the lawyer also said ‘ “If she was a child that’d be a more viable argument but she’s not. She’s a grown woman,”.
So, according to the lawyer for the TTC this woman, who was in her twenties, should have had a minder. This makes no sense at all. Perhaps the 45 year old woman who pushed her should have had a minder. And what does that “she shouldn’t have been alone” statement mean for me? I don’t live in Toronto but make frequent trips to the city on transit and use that station often. I’m three times the age of this woman who was pushed. Does the TTC’s logic mean that I should also have a companion when travelling on the subway? Or should I avoid the subway all together?
The TTC’s actions here of blaming the victim for her misfortune reminded me of something that happened years ago when I worked for an automotive importer. At one point the Montreal parts depot sent a shipment of parts to a dealer located, I believe somewhere on the Gaspe Peninsula, by common carrier. Also on this truck was a shipment of tobacco products. The truck was hijacked mainly for the smokes and the auto parts were a nice bonus. Naturally we filed claim against the carrier for the loss of our goods. This time their lawyer didn’t blame us for the hijacking, or blame the company responsible for the tobacco. Oh no. Their lawyer claimed the hijacking was “an act of God”. The letter had been written in French. Once it was translated and returned to me (I’ve forgotten most of the French I learned in school) I showed it to my boss and said to him “I don’t know if we should consult a lawyer or a priest”.
I know lawyers have to defend their clients in cases like these, but there are times their defence arguments give the term “grasping at straws” a whole other meaning.
Here’s the link to the Vice article: