TTC 'devastated' by death of Amaria Diljohn, but transit still safe: Andy Byford
TTC CEO fast-tracking safety review, advocates critical of actions
Controversy surrounds safety on the TTC after the death of Amaria Diljohn, a 14-year-old killed by a bus on Friday. But the chief executive of the TTC argued the system is still safe.
Police have yet to say whether the bus driver realized he had struck the 14-year-old, and the TTC has not revealed much information about the driver or the incident.
"The whole of the TTC is completely devastated about what happened," said Andy Byford, the CEO of the TTC. "We pride ourselves on putting out a safe and reliable service."
Byford said there is video footage from the bus, which has been turned over to the police. He said the TTC is fully cooperating with the investigation, including reconstructing the scene of the crash complete with a TTC bus.
"Anything they need, they'll get," said Byford of the police investigation.
But the tragedy has raised broader questions about the safety of Toronto transit. There have been 5,000 preventable accidents on the TTC since 2009.
Byford said the TTC is taking proactive safety measures in the wake of the child's death, but he also defended public transit in Toronto.
Byford spoke about a safety and best practices review he commissioned after a series of videos emerged of TTC buses running red lights. He is fast-tracking that review. "It seems to me only right that we add more resources to that review," he said on CBC's Metro Morning.
Byford said the results of that review will be made public at the TTC's January board meeting, or at the latest its February board meeting.
He also argued the "vast majority" of those 5,000 accidents were minor.
"The overwhelming majority of those so-called accidents or collisions are fender benders," he said. "It's not an easy job, driving a bus through ever-more crowded streets."
Gil Penalosa of the non-profit pedestrian advocacy group 8 To 80 was critical of Byford. He said the TTC CEO has had three years to implement greater safety measures, but instead has focused on issues like boarding streetcars from rear doors.
"Andy Byford is a nice person, but we need faster results," said Penalosa.
Penalosa claimed a fundamental issue with the TTC is bad drivers. "We need to take the bad apples from the good apples," he said.
"One driver by himself had over 30 crashes. Over 200 drivers have had over 10 crashes each," alleged Penalosa.
Byford disputes that. He said the TTC does not hesitate to fire drivers with safety issues. He said the recent dismissal of a driver who ran a red light in Toronto's east-end is evidence of that.
Penalosa, however, still wants to see more action taken.
He said lowering the speed to 30 km/hour or less will prevent pedestrian fatalities. He also said the focus needs to shift to outlying areas, saying 85 per cent of vehicle-pedestrian collisions happen outside of downtown.
"Everybody walks," said Penalosa. "Pedestrians should be our number one priority."
Byford said he has reached out to the family of Diljohn. He called it "so sad."
"We are desperately sorry for them," said Byford.