Toronto mayoral candidate Ana Bailão has promised to bring cell phone service to the TTC if elected.
“We need cell service on the TTC and we needed it yesterday,” tweeted Bailão on Thursday. “TTC riders shouldn’t have to hold their breath and wait for their train to go above ground to use TTC safety apps and text-a-tip lines.”
She’s referring to a recently launched TTC number, 647-496-1940, through which travellers can report safety concerns via text, as well as the Safe TTC mobile app, which offers similar functionality.
As it stands, though, underground phone service is almost completely unavailable in the TTC despite the required infrastructure being in place since 2015. While all 75 TTC stations are capable of supporting talk, text and data technology, Freedom Mobile is the only carrier that has signed a licensing agreement to enable service.
In recent months, calls have increased for Bell, Rogers and Telus — the so-called carrier “Big 3” — to follow Freedom’s suit amid a rise in violence on the TTC. According to the transit agency’s own data, violence on its vehicles rose by 46 percent in 2022 from the year prior. The city is also reeling from the March 25th murder of 16-year-old Gabriel Magalhaes, who was fatally stabbed at Keele Station in what police are calling an “unprovoked” attack.
While city officials debate what responses should be taken to address the violence, some, including Bailão, are pushing for phone service. It should be noted, however, that Bailão arguably raises her own safety concerns. In 2013, she admitted to drunk driving the year prior, although she only ended up receiving a 12-month licence suspension and fine.
For now, though, the TTC service issue is clearly larger than Bailão. BAI Communications, Inc., the company that installed the infrastructure in the TTC system, has been calling on the Big 3 to sign an agreement to open up their networks to underground transit use. On social media, Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie also shared that City Council “call on all cellphone providers to help our efforts to keep the Toronto Transit Commission safe and ensure cell service for all cellphones is available across our subway system as soon as possible.”
It remains to be seen if and when they might come around, with or without mayoral involvement.
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