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TTC subway guards pointing at the wall. Why? Some don’t know

WATCH ABOVE: TTC subways guards are now pointing at the wall as trains pull into the station. Sean Mallen explains why. 

TORONTO – Subway door problems have led the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to enact a safety procedure to prevent injuries and delays. Problem is, some TTC employees say they don’t understand the procedure that’s been around for almost eight months.

Most riders may not notice it, and it only happens for a second, but when the train pulls into a station, subway guards (the transit employee in the middle of the train) are required to point at a specific spot on the wall in each and every station.

So, what’s the point?

“It’s to focus the guard on the job that they’re doing, which is a safety critical task that they are going to open the doors of the train,” explained James Ross, TTC Head of Subway Transportation.

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It’s step three of a four-step process dubbed the “point and acknowledge” procedure. “[The guard] has to stand up, they have to open the window, point at the marker to acknowledge they are in the right spot, and only then do they safely open the doors,” Ross said.

The markers, known as the “all train spotted marker,” are the green circles and triangles or orange triangles (depending on which Toronto subway line) located on the walls at each station.

On Saturday, half of the dozen subway guards Global News spoke to said they didn’t know why they were pointing. One even denied pointing at all, right after pointing at the marker.

“I think a lot of our staff understand the reason why they’re doing it.. I think most of them get it, and most of them see the value in it,” Ross said.

The “point and acknowledge” procedure rolled out in July 2014, Ross said. In the 26 weeks leading up to the implementation, 14 incidents of doors opening without the train fully in the station were reported, he added.

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But one guard told Global News on Saturday it was only implemented in the last “few weeks”, and he didn’t know the purpose of the pointing.

Another guard, as a train rolled through Pape Station, explained the procedure had been in place for “quite some time” and it is to keep “us alert.”

TTC subway guard at Pape Station.
TTC subway guard at Pape Station. Adam Frisk/Global News

This guard was positive about the program. He explained that transit employees have been doing it for a long time in New York City.

And they are.

The “point and acknowledge” concept originated in Japan (although it’s called “pointing and calling”) and was adapted by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) during the First World War.

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MTA employees are required to point at the conductor’s indication board, a black and white striped wooded board, upon arrival at each station.

Since the implementation in Toronto, the TTC says there have been four door-related incidents, two of which happened shortly after the platform change at Union Station.

Ross explained door-related incidents can result in delays of up to 25 minutes on the subway system.

Clearly though, the project is still a work in progress. One guard on Wednesday appeared to be giving the finger.

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Ross said the TTC has done audits on the pointing program and “overwhelmingly, we are seeing really high levels of compliance.”

The pointing system was slightly tweaked for North American transit systems, both Toronto and New York are the only ones that use the “point and acknowledge” procedure.

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