Transit advocates gathered outside Bathurst subway station on Tuesday to ask the provincial government to allow the use of exterior cameras on streetcars in order to fine drivers who drive past stopped streetcars.
The call comes one week after a woman was hit by a dump truck as she stepped off the 511 Bathurst streetcar near Ulster Street.
“Every transit rider has had the frightening experience of exiting a streetcar and nearly being hit by a driver that has failed to obey the road rules,” Jessica Bell, NDP transit critic, said at a press conference at Bathurst subway station Tuesday morning.
Bell said a public letter was sent to the Ontario government, including Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, asking to amend the highway traffic act to allow the TTC to “install and use safety cameras to find and fine drivers who break the rules and pass by a streetcar when it’s stopped.”
When asked about the letter, Mulroney responded: “I haven’t had a chance to look at Jessica Bell’s motion, and with respect to the TTC request, when a formal request comes from the City of Toronto, we will consider it.”
“I think we share a priority of keeping our streets as safe as possible.”
Bell said that between 2014 and 2016, 26 people were injured exiting a streetcar.
“That’s 26 people too many,” she said.
TTC streetcar operator Peter Reinhardt, who has 32 years of experience driving the vehicles, was also at the press conference and said this has been an ongoing problem for many years.
“Numerous close calls, all our operators face that everyday.”
“We definitely need new rules and regulations regarding autos approaching the streetcar doors,” Reinhardt said.
WATCH: Transit advocates calls on province to use TTC streetcar cameras to enforce traffic violations
TTCriders executive director Shelagh Pizey-Allen also reiterated the need for permitting the use of enforcement cameras on streetcars to catch drivers breaking the rules.
“Transit riders are also pedestrians, and when we get off and on transit, we deserve to be safe and not fear that we will be injured or risk losing our lives,” Pizey-Allen said.
“I cannot personally count the number of times I have seen a driver speed past an open door. Sometimes, it seems that drivers speed up so they can beat the streetcar, and it’s a very dangerous situation for transit riders,” Pizey-Allen said.
Bell said the TTC needs permission from the province to move forward with using those security cameras to fine drivers and enforce traffic violations.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said the current law does not permit streetcar cameras to be used for law enforcement when it comes to enforcing road safety.
“No one thought to ask,” Tory said.
Tory cited the slow pace of legislative process, saying: “It seems to take years — plural — not just a few months or a few weeks.”
“The proposal to have cameras that are already installed on streetcars made available such that if somebody driving through a streetcar stop zone when a streetcar is stopped and could be issued a ticket should be something that I think the city should be allowed to decide,” he said.
Tory said it’s time for “streetcar cameras to be put into better use, into making sure you can catch people disregarding the law.”
A TTC board meeting Tuesday afternoon is expected to address the issue of streetcar rider safety and camera enforcement based on the list of motions in the agenda.