TTC to develop new app that would enable riders to report harassment

The Toronto Transit Commission is working on a new app that would allow riders to discreetly take a photo of a person who is harassing or assaulting them or others and report it directly to the TTC.

A 23-year-old woman was assaulted on the Yonge line Friday, police say

The TTC says they have had 35 sexual assault reports up until the end of May this year. (Bruce Reeve/CBC)

The Toronto Transit Commission is working on a new app that would allow riders to discreetly take a photo of a person who is harassing or assaulting someone — and immediately submit a report.

TTC CEO Andy Byford said he hopes the app will be a less obvious alternative to pressing the emergency strip on trains, buses or streetcars. The app should roll out by the end of the year, he said.

"I want my customers to feel safe and secure," he told reporters on Monday. "If you felt that there was something odd about someone staring at you and you felt uneasy, you could very discreetly, without that person knowing, take a photo of them and ... then send it to a transit control centre and it would be acted upon."

Byford said it's another "tool" for riders to use in cases of harassment or violence. Half of the subway system has Wi-Fi already and the other half should by next year, he said.

Discussion of the app surfaced at a TTC board meeting on Monday after Toronto city council asked the commission to do a safety audit on the system  to "address safety concerns of women and women with disabilities."

The city's Disability, Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee made the request after reviewing the status report on the TTC's accessibility plan.

So far this year, the TTC says it has had 35 reports of sexual assault through the end of May. There were 56 sexual assault reports for all of 2014, and 67 in 2015.

The TTC admits there may be even more which were only reported to police.

Sexual assault reported on the Yonge line Friday

Toronto police released this photo of a man who allegedly assaulted a 23-year-old woman on the subway Friday. (Toronto Police Service)

In a recent case, a 23-year-old woman was standing on the subway when police say a man approached her from behind and sexually assaulted her. 

It happened on Friday at 4:40 p.m. on the southbound Yonge line. Police say the man exited the train at King subway station. 

Investigators describe him as white, in his mid-40s, standing 5-10, weighing 200 pounds with short dark hair, blue eyes and say he was clean-shaven.

At the time of the alleged assault the man was wearing a black baseball hat, blue dress shirt and black dress pants.

Byford urged riders to report sexual assault on the TTC because he said the commission relies on data to make decisions about safety measures — and if sexual assault goes unreported, the TTC does not have a clear picture of the scope of the problem.