The TTC is introducing a pilot project on Line 4 (Sheppard Line) that will see the removal of the guard position on trains.
Guards stand at the back of the train ensuring doors are safely opened and closed before the vehicle leaves the station. They play no “security” role in a conventional sense, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said.
But Bob Kinnear, president of the union representing TTC employees, believes the change will make the system less safe.
“I think it impacts safety because quite often the public reports to the guard incidents of assault, theft and vandalism,” he said.
Kinnear also raised concerns around a single employee’s ability to evacuate the train by themselves during an emergency.
“When you’re in the middle of a tunnel, one person does not have the capability to efficiently quickly remove the people from the train,” he said.
“The safety at stations is not compromised in any way” – TTC spokesperson Brad Ross
Ross said “in fact safety on the train itself will likely be improved because there will be fewer incidents of what we call ‘doors open off platform.’” This is when human error results in an operator opening a door while the train is in a tunnel – something that can cause significant delays as staff then need to cut power and check underneath the train as a matter of protocol.
Trains on Line 3 (Scarborough RT) currently run on a one-person system, a practice that has been in place since 1985.
If single-person train operation was rolled out system-wide, the TTC could save around $36 million a year.
“Cities have been doing this for years”
Ross said it will not result in job losses because subway operators will be needed for new lines expected to open in the coming years such as the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension.
Major metropolitan centres like London, Los Angeles, Montreal and Hong Kong have already switched to a one-person train operation (OPTO) model.
But Kinnear worries that in today’s heightened security climate, a second pair of eyes could be an added layer of protection and mean peace of mind for passengers.
The TTC, however, points out the number of employees at stations has increased under their new station management model, and the numbers will continue to climb once collectors come out of booths as the PRESTO fare card system rolls out.