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TTC union sounds alarm on safety of Presto gates in emergencies

ADRIAN GHOBRIAL AND ROSHNI MURTHY | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

fire

A heated debate is underway concerning passenger safety on the TTC.

This comes as ATU Local 113, the union representing TTC employees, sounds the alarm over personal safety concerns since the Presto system was implemented at subway stations across the city.

Kevin Morton, the union’s secretary-treasurer, says the TTC’s Presto fare gates are not patched into fire panels at a number of stations, meaning when an alarm is pulled the doors will not automatically open to allow people out.

“If these gates don’t open properly I think you can just use your imagination to say you’re going to have a lot of people trying to get through and it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” he claims. “This is outright negligence on somebody’s part.”

But the transit commission disagrees. Spokesperson Brad Ross confirms the gates are not patched into the alarm system but claims, “[The union is] creating a fear that is not necessary for the public. The fare gates are safe.”

Toronto Fire and the TTC tell CityNews customers do have a way out in the event of an emergency. A manual hatch is available that allows the gates to open, allowing 10 passengers out of the gates at a time. For approximately every 10 people exiting the gates, the doors briefly close then re-open.

Though the TTC is working on retro-fitting the system to eventually patch Presto fare gates into the fire system, Morton suggests the whole process is flawed.

“I’d like to know how this system was developed and the technology wasn’t married with our existing technology for the safety of our passengers. It’s ludicrous,” he says.

“We would argue that the new fare gates that we see in our stations today make exiting in an emergency less cumbersome than a turnstile or at an auto entrance,” asserts Ross.

CityNews has also learned fire alarms are not in place at three Toronto subway stations, yet their nonexistence does not break provincial fire codes due to the stations’ age.

Midland, Ellesmere and Glencairn – all outdoor stations – were built before fire regulations were implemented and they are still in the process of being retrofitted to meet current regulations. This does not contravene with provincial building codes, according to Toronto Fire’s Deputy Chief.

The system, built in 1954, did not have fire alarm regulations when these stations were constructed.

But in the interim, claims Ross, “If there’s an emergency people…will be shown out of the station by TTC staff.”

The three stations will be getting fire alarm systems installed in the near future in accordance with the TTC’s Fire Safety program.

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