Friday, April 22, 2011

"PEOPLE LIKE YOU..." says the TTC


No, its not a compliment that I received today, it ended in an arrest by Toronto Police, courtesy of a situation precipitated by a judgemental and 'higher than thou' TTC driver on the 506 College eastbound bus, a few houses down the street where I live, College and Lansdowne.

It happened at about 3:45pm today (Good Friday) and I am posting this at 6:21pm, after I ran my errands after being released from uncomfortable police custody in the back of one of their cramped cruises, while in over-tight handcuffs. They purposely have the from seats pushed back as far as it will go and I still have ligature marks on my wrists.

... But this is not about the police, who just did their jobs as a cog in the system.

This is about the Toronto Transit Commission and how customers are considered second class freight by (some) arrogant drivers.  Since this record will no doubt be used in my upcoming court case, and because I believe in truth, here are the details:

1. I walked to the corner and waited at the northwest corner for the College streetcar. There were already about 20+ people there.

2. After what felt like a 15-20 minute wait (wish I had timed it), and watching bus after bus just bypass and go down Dundas (which I thought was closed), the 506 bus and the soon to be offending driver pulls up.

3. The young female driver (a rookie?) commences to have a long conversation with another young lady who boarded  after me and seemed to be a friend,  while about 10 people, many of them elderly, wait to board.

4. I was seated about halfway down the bus and went to the front, feeling concerned that people were waiting, and simply asked the driver "What's the holdup?"

5. She replies "Just be patient sir." I replied "We've been patient enough" . Yes I was feeling irritated at the wait, but did not express it other than to say "Let's just get moving" and turned to walk away.

6. Driver says "If you don't like it, get out and take a taxi". Now, understand that I am on disability, low income and the last time I took a taxi was when I had to go to the hospital after a fall and tore a hamstring. I resent being reminded of my poverty, and her statement was inflammatory.

7. It may have been at this time that I said was was only the worst thing that I could have said: "Oh, go to hell"... or it may have been later, since the driver continued to escalate and bait me.

9. The driver then said 'Get off my bus" and stopped just in front of the Tim Horton's I always frequent. I replied "No, I've got a valid fare" and held up my monthy April TTC pass again.

10. Driver then says "Its' PEOPLE LIKE YOU who are the problem..." Now I admit, this bothered me as I would most anyone I think, as it is a put down that is a classist statement intended to diminish the value of another human being.

11. I inform the driver I would be filing a complaint, and the driver says "Go ahead, I won't lose my job over a complaint". To me, this is obnviously a reference to the fact that the TTC has a strong union and no complaints would ever be taken seriously or have conseuences.

12. The 'won't lose my job' complaint to me was yet another further escalation, said loudly and with a smirk on her face, again intended to 'put me in my place' so to speak.

13. At this point, I am angry enough to decide then and there to stand up for my rights as a human being, entitled to some respect just like anyone else. I strongly point out that I did not swear or become abusive or threatening to the driver in any way. In fact, there was a man between me and the driver who was chatting with her during this, and a relatively full busload of passengers.

14. Now, we have one bus stopped and not moving. The driver calls TTC control to report 'an abusive passenger who won't get off the bus' and proceeds to describe me as old, balding, etc. I spoke loud enough such that the TTC controller would know who I was, giving clearly my name, address and telephone number. My thought was there was no point in delaying the bus, I was on it and they knew who I was. Besides there are in bus cameras taking down the entire exchange.

15. TTC control soon comes over the bus speakers and announces the bus out of service and told all passengers to exit.

16. At about this point I decide to document things myself using my cell phone camera to take photos and video of the bus, identifying number, etc.

17. The police have not arrived, another bus pulls up and I get off to get on it. Driver 1 (young female) says, "no dont let him on" but I already am. Driver 2 (a guy with a small beard) comes back and says his bus is now out of service.

18. I get off bus 2 and get back on bus 1. Now 2 buses are out of service. This is ridiculous.

19. Police have still not arrived (I am standing up for what I believe is an impotant issue, having to do with human rights * more on this at end of this post), so

20 I call 311 to ensure that at least there is a record of what is happening and ask to lodge a complaint against the TTC. The 311 operator doesn't know what to do, so I ask him to take my name and telephone number and to advise my local city councillor Ana Bailao. The reason for this is that I have had concerns about TTC issues of safety and customer service for some time, having posted about it on my weblog and in emails to TTC Chair Karen Stintz as well as discussions with Ana. I intend to file a complaint.

21.  Police arrive and I gladly exit the bus to explain what happened, to an initially sympathetic officer - while the other officer (Hollingshead) talks to the TTC driver. I ask if I am being arrested and he says no.

22. By now there are crowds watching 2 idling buses and police questioning me and the driver, with traffic slowed and gawking at the roadside show.

23. I have to admit by this point I am disgusted with the whole over the top situation, but I am not one to back down when I feel I am being treated unfairly (by the TTC, I stress, police are still just doing their job).

24. Since the statements appear to have been taken, I try to board the bus and officer Hollingshead blocks my entry. If I am not under arrest and I have a valid fare, why not I ask. Things are fuzzy here as I think I tried to board, angry that I was being refused, in my thought, all access to TTC buses. And here I did do a stupid thing, puting my foot up to board (my stubborness did me in). I am absolutely sure I did not touch or push the officer, but in a frenzied whirl I am speedily manhandled, twisted around and handcuffed.

25. Now I am frisked over the trunk of the police car, relieved of all my belongings and consigned to the cramped back seat of the cruiser. I see out the window buses idling, 2 police cars (including the one I was in) and a TTC supervisor car. While I wait for about an hour, with the blood ciculation in my hands cut off, I think over the events. I hear on the police radio that the incident for my call is Delta 137173. I also hear a police call for an assault situation at 1011 Lansdowne and calls for a traffic car at College and Ossington.

26. I am shamed that the incident involving me was responded to in such an over the top fashion and that police resources were being taken up bt this.  I am however certain of the rightness of my concerns in how the TTC often treats the 'lower classes'.  I am glad to at least know that now there will be a full report of the incident so I can actually follow up and not be just ignored, as often happens to those with no power or status.

27. After what seemed an eternity, the car pulls round in front of the bus and I am told to get out of the car. I am released from the cuffs and given back my belongings. I ask why I wasn't being taken to the station and told I was being given a ticket. $50 fine for trespass. I will fight it.

28. I think at this point another bus pulls up (#3) and I go to get on it (after all I was not under arrest and had valid fare). The driver refuses me access and the supervisor comes up and say no as well. What gives? Am I being refused access to the entire TTC system?

29. The kindly police officer (good cop, bad cop teams?) comes to tell me that I cannot board. After some confusion I realize its because I 'had words' with him, ie. an interchange so the police have to document this while another bus is out of service: Driver 3: "You can't get on" Me: "Why" Driver 3: "Because I said so"... that was pretty much the entirety of the conversation.

30. NOW... bus number 4 pulls up and I am invited to board by the police.

31. As I go towards the bus, the bearded TTC Supervisor feels compelled to come to me and say "You know, it's PEOPLE LIKE YOU that cause all the problems...." He goes on to say, "My job is to protect my people from PEOPLE LIKE YOU"
...I thank him for giving me a title and sweet soundbite for the whole incident and its deeper meaning:

.... Someday People Like You.... can quickly become PEOPLE LIKE ME ....

I am looking foward to my day in court.

* There is background to this that bears consideration.  I travel on the Queen Streetcar, the Dufferin and Ossington buses. I too often see abusive TTC drivers who give those that are 'down and out' a really hard time. They are challenged much more often to again produce valid transfers just because of the way they look.  A few times, I've heard drivers say really nasty demeaning things like 'you're a waste of time' or 'what? all you can give me is pennies? or 'I don't want YOU on my bus (before they even board or speak'.  I do say that it is only some drivers, in my estimate maybe 10% at most and usually not the drivers on the regular runs (probably overtime work from another more classy route).

Still, the customer deserves some respect, don't you think?


* Update: 8:50pm Friday - I checked the TTC website for the bylaws, since I was charged as "Failed to leave premises when directed Trespass to Property Ac 2 (1) (b). "
TTC bylaws make no direct mention of this, other than possibly:
3.24 No person, unless otherwise authorized, shall loiter in or on TTC property.

... Is this what I am being found guilty of ?
3.25 No person shall cause a disturbance or act contrary to the public peace on TTC property, including but not limited to:
a) urinating, expectorating or defecating, except in facilities specifically intended for such actions;
b) using profane, insulting or obscene language or gestures; ...Is the word 'hell' profane?
c) behaving in an indecent or offensive manner;
d) shining any type of light at an operator of a TTC vehicle or any other passenger;
e) fighting; or
f) behaving in a manner which would interfere with the ordinary enjoyment of persons using the transit system. ... A wonderful 'anything else we can think of' catchphrase?
The Trespass to Property Act says:  R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER T.21

Trespass an offence

2. (1) Every person who is not acting under a right or authority conferred by law and who,
(a) without the express permission of the occupier, the proof of which rests on the defendant,
(i) enters on premises when entry is prohibited under this Act, or
(ii) engages in an activity on premises when the activity is prohibited under this Act; or
(b) does not leave the premises immediately after he or she is directed to do so by the occupier of the premises or a person authorized by the occupier,
is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $2,000. R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21, s. 2 (1).

* Update: 9:46pm I sent in a signed, faxed complaint to TTC customer service. I am told by their site I can expect followup in 7 business days (May 3rd). Stay tuned.  This was the exact complaint just sent:

Comments: Driver held up the much delayed bus with a conversation with a friend/passenger while elderly people waited to board. I asked What the holdup was, She said, Be patient, I said we've been patient enough and turned to sit down. Driver escalated several times, saying: 1. If you dont like it, get out and take a taxi; 2. It's PEOPLE LIKE YOU who are the problem; 3. I'm not going to lose my job over a complaint (laughs) - after I said I would file a complaint. Resulted in about 3+ buses being delayed, Police called, me being arrested. I shall fight this complaint in court and will be talking to the media. Note that my chief complaint is with the TTC cultural attitude of 'my people, you people'. Since I have to put this in writing it is only fair that you respond in kind. I would be happy to speak with your new customer service guru to resolve this.
Date and Time of Event (yyyy-mm-dd): 2011-04-22 03:45 PM

Employee Badge Number: unknown

Employee Description: Young, female driver
Gender: Female
Vehicle No.: 1626

Run No.: 506 Ossington
Licence Plate: I have a photo
Route name and/or Number: 506 bus eastbound
Vehicle direction of travel: East
Location of Occurrence: College and Lansdowne
Reference Number #52481
Note: I have also emailed TTC Chair and Councillor Stintz and cc'd my local Councillor Ana Bailao.