Blue Line

TTC Chief Supervisors

July 19, 2016  By Tom Rataj

693 words – MR

TTC Chief Supervisors – an emergency response partner

by Tom Rataj

Incidents on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) are often reported through 911, triggering a response from police, fire and/or paramedics – and a critical and complimentary fourth tier, a TTC Chief Supervisor (CS).


Four chief supervisors are on duty during core business hours, ready to deal with a wide range of operational matters.

{Big transit}

As Canada’s largest municipal public transit system (third largest in North America), the TTC carries an average 1.7 million passengers daily on 1,550 buses, 185 streetcars, 500 Wheel-Trans/Community buses and up to 610 subway and Rapid Transit (RT) cars. The system has 69 stations (bus, streetcar, or subway) with another 31 under construction.

There are more than half a billion passenger trips a year and TTC vehicles travel some 240 million kilometres annually. The corporation employs 13,700 people, mostly vehicle operators but also managers, ticket-takers, mechanics, specialized trades and custodians.

Transit system security is managed by TTC Transit Security Special Constables in both a uniform and investigative capacity, which works closely with the Toronto Police Service.


Despite stringent training standards and a focus on system, passenger and driver safety, incidents are inevitable. TTC vehicles and passengers interact with multitudes of vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, especially in the busy downtown core. Slips and falls are not uncommon during the winter, when snow and ice can also cause problems with signal and switching equipment.

Problems can quickly radiate across the entire city, causing delays and service disruptions for more than a million passengers during rush hour. Equipment failures, electrical problems, vehicle breakdowns, collisions, medical and other problems with passengers, criminal activity and other problems are common.

When problems occur, a dedicated group of mobile chief supervisors quickly respond to the scene, focusing on quickly restoring service. They work closely with primary emergency services to ensure that each agency’s mandates are met in a timely fashion and without unnecessary delays. They take command and control of all major incidents within their jurisdiction, planning and coordinating all at-scene activities.

{Cross trained}

Chief supervisors engage in a variety of cross-training with other services, including emergency situation mock-ups. They are authorized municipal law enforcement officers and can issue parking tickets to vehicles interfering with TTC operations. They also complete the police level two collision investigation course and have a protocol with the Chief Coroner to expedite restoration of service after subway suicides.

A CS, with the assistance of other emergency services, will determine if an event was a suicide, accidental fall or criminal act. The objective is to restore service within 20 minutes. If a declaration of death can be made at the scene, a CS calls the coroner’s office for authorization to remove the body.

With the assistance of fire or paramedics, the deceased is put in a body bag the CS carries in a subway-incident kit, placed in a stokes basket, lifted from track level and stored in an emergency response room located on each subway platform. The body is guarded by TTC Special Constables until the coroner and body-removal service attends.

Chief supervisors drive new Ford Expedition SUVs custom up-fitted by D&R Electronics of Bolton with a roof-mounted lightbar and arrow stick, Motorola mobile radio, front and rear emergency strobes and a centre console with controls for air-horn, siren and lights. A Panasonic Toughbook mobile computer is affixed to a rugged mount on the passenger side. Additional equipment includes a Motorola portable radio and BlackBerry smartphone.

A multi-drawer storage cabinet in the rear cargo area contains specialized equipment to deal with a wide range of emergencies and situations. Several “specialized response” duffle bags can readily be carried into a subway station or tunnel to deal with problems.

The chief supervisors carry a police-style memo book to record all activities during their shift, which aid in filing reports and other paperwork.

Keeping a large urban transit system operating on time is never easy. The often overlapping responsibilities and needs of the TTC and three primary emergency services creates a challenging interoperability situation that is deftly handled with the help of the TTC Chief Supervisors.

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