It’s an all too familiar scenario. The TTC bus she was driving a few years ago along Lawrence Avenue East had to weave through morning rush-hour traffic. Inevitably, she arrived at some of the commuter stops later than scheduled.
“I would have to be at a stop by 8:17, but get there for 8:20 and people wouldn’t be happy,” Shirley said. She has asked that her full name be withheld. “(The passengers) let you know that you were three minutes late. Those same people that you greet every morning … turn on you.”
Then, more recently during her eight-year stint as a TTC bus driver, Shirley stopped to let a man with crutches climb aboard her bus. He paced back and forth past the white line. Shirley asked the man to take a seat, then without warning, he suddenly punched her.
Shirley is of hundreds of TTC workers assaulted every year.
Richard Lee is a TTC supervisor and the author of a book called “Get Onboard – Walk in the Shoes of a Transit Operator.”
“TTC drivers face a lot more than what people realize,” he said. “It’s more than just driving safely from point A to point B.”
Lee worked for six years as a bus driver before becoming a supervisor. With his book, he’s trying to raise awareness about driver and worker assaults.
“I heard stories that would not normally be heard by the public,” Lee said. “Hearing it steadily for a few months I gained a greater compassion towards the TTC operators and workers.”
At the front of every TTC bus, a sign reads, “Every day at least one TTC worker is assaulted. That’s one too many.” The sign also states that the TTC has zero tolerance for worker assault.
When a TTC worker is assaulted, the transit control centre is notified and a call is made to emergency responders. Operations halt and the driver is examined. TTC spokesperson Kadeem Griffiths explained how the transit commission deals with cases such as the assault on Shirley.
“After the assault, the operator is interviewed by TTC personal and managers to assess for time off and/or route changes,” Griffiths said. He added that the perpetrator of the assault, if found guilty, can be fined up to $2,000 or imprisoned for up to six months.