After an ongoing run of violence on Toronto’s TTC -- something currently making daily (and disturbing) headlines -- “relaxing” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind to describe the rider experience. 

A new TTC ad, however, calls it just that. The ad shows a man peacefully taking a nap on board the TTC with the slogan: “Take a time out. Take the TTC. The relaxing, affordable choice.”

Reddit and Twitter users aren't having it.

To be fair, the ads were planned long before the recent string of violence on the TTC began. 

“The ads are from a campaign that begin [in] 2022, and took months of advance planning,” Stuart Green, Senior Communications Specialist for the TTC told STOREYS. He did not specify how long the ads would remain in place or comment on whether there was a chance they’d be taken down. 

“The safety of customers and employees is paramount to all the TTC does,” says Green. “We remain committed to working with police, the City of Toronto and our union partners on ways we can all make the TTC as safe as possible for customers and employees. TTC CEO Rick Leary is part of ongoing meetings with Mayor Tory, the Toronto Police Service and union representatives to discuss safety and security on the TTC.”

Yesterday, Toronto mayor John Tory announced that the Toronto Police Service would increase its presence in TTC transit systems. 

“The TTC moves hundreds of millions of customers every year without incident, but we cannot and do not take that for granted,” says Green. “We have recently added more Special Constable patrols on the subways and are deploying even more uniformed staff around the system. We are also looking to make further changes and enhancements this year as part of our 2023 budget.”

But residents aren’t feeling too reassured. In fact, a photo circulating on social media showing a police officer on a horse outside of a TTC station has become the subject of social media ridicule. The image was posted to Twitter in an apparent attempt to offer some reassurance to TTC riders. Some have weighed in on the timeliness of the photo -- pointing to the fact that it couldn't possibly have been posted that day, because there wasn't any snow on the ground. Regardless of whether the photo was taken the same day, the reality remains: a police officer on a horse outside of a station isn't going to help prevent someone from being attacked inside the station.

At a time when ridership is still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels, earlier this month, Mayor Tory said that the TTC would be increasing its fares by 10 cents later this year. At the same time, Tory announced an additional $53M that has been allocated to the TTC this year -- a 5.8% increase from the TTC’s 2022 budget. In total, the 2023 city budget provides $958.7M to the TTC. The budget includes millions of dollars to hire new special constables to improve safety for riders and transit employees. 

Like Mayor Tory -- who called for a National Mental Health Summit earlier this week -- Green acknowledges that there are bigger societal and systemic issues at play when it comes to these recent incidences of TTC violence.

Of course, it's going to take a lot more than inflated budgets and a heightened police presence to address the city's mental health crisis, which is clearly bubbling to the surface like never before. But that's an article for another day.