People living in Toronto feel less safe on public transit than other Canadians, according to a new Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News.
The poll suggests 44 per cent of Toronto residents feel unsafe riding transit alone. That compares to 35 per cent of riders in the 905 region around Toronto and 27 per cent across the country.
“In general people do feel safe riding transit. There’s a quarter of the population that doesn’t really feel safe, regardless of where you go,” Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos, told Global News.
“What we’re seeing in the data is that this really seems to be a Toronto issue, and particularly a downtown Toronto issue in the 416 area, where people have been seeing a lot of reporting on various incidents on the public transit system, and it spooked them.”
This new polling comes after a series of high-profile and violent attacks on Toronto’s transit system. It includes a fatal stabbing at the High Park subway station, a reported sexual assault on a bus, a driver allegedly shot in the face with a BB gun and an incident in which a group of teenagers allegedly swarmed a TTC worker.
While the number of incidents remains low compared to the overall ridership figures, Toronto has seen a recent uptick, one expert said.
“It has been generally trending downwards across Canada, but we have seen an uptick in Toronto,” David Cooper, principal at Leading Mobility Consulting, told Global News of attacks on transit. “There’s about 2.1 million passengers boarding per day and about five incidents.”
He said the TTC, in particular, had seen a number of high-profile, severe incidents.
The Ipsos polling suggested that — even accompanied by friends or family — riders in Toronto felt less safe than other parts of the country. Twenty-five per cent of respondents said they still felt unsafe travelling with friends or family, compared to a national rate of 15 per cent.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Toronto Region Board of Trade in February, Rick Leary, the TTC’s CEO, said the service had faced “some real challenging times of late” regarding violence and rider safety.
“Our front-line operators, our customers, have real concerns about the high profile of incidents that have occurred on the TTC,” he said, referencing an increase in police, TTC enforcement and social workers involved in transit. “We know that these are challenging social issues, not just public transit issues.”
Those high-profile incidents may have affected how people in Toronto behave when taking transit, the Ipsos polling suggests.
Only 21 per cent of Toronto residents polled said they had not changed their behaviour at all when it comes to transit after reporting on recent events.
At a national level, around 19 per cent of respondents said they avoided travelling at night, while 17 per cent had taken extra precautions such as not turning their back on people or carrying a pepper spray. Around 13 per cent have started to take transit less often and 14 per cent said they had stopped using it entirely.
The majority of Ontarians polled — 57 per cent — said they felt very safe or somewhat safe when using transit.
METHODOLOGY: This Ipsos poll was conducted between Feb. 15 and 17 on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of n=1,350 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed (including a sample of n = 500 GTA residents). Quotas and weighting were employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the population according to census information. The precision of this Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would be, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
— With files from Global News’ Erica Vella