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What Will it Take to Make Subways Safer in Toronto?

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Recently I have been thinking of a conversation I had with Adam Giambrone.

Three years ago, I convinced a local Ethiopian business owner to name dishes after potential mayoral candidates with the hope of raising money for a local charity.

We named dishes for few of the leading candidates and the idea literally took off. There were the John Tory, George Smitherman and Adam Giambrone dishes. We even named a tribute dish for Toronto's one-time great mayor, David Crombie.

We asked customers to choose their preferred candidates by ordering the food that is named after their prefered candidate.

For John Tory, we chose "Tips" which is a traditional dish with injera bread with beef stew with chunks of tomatoes minus any spices. George Smitherman's was "Kitfo" with much spice reflecting the Ontario Deputy Premier's assumed personality.

Adam Giambrone was "Cha Cha Cha" with a special bowl with sizzling meat with peppers and spareribs, warm.

Most of the candidates came to visit us and opened themselves to long conversations with the restaurant patrons. However, the most personable of them all was Adam Giambrone who was then considering a run for Toronto's top poliitcal job and was also the head of the TTC.

The question everyone wanted to ask him was about safety on the TTC. There had been rumours that too many people were having freak accidents on the subway lines and that a few people have been pushed in front of incoming subways. That was on my mind then, and more so these days.

This week, on the edge of a subway platform, a woman pushed a 32-year-old Indian native to punish him for "what happened on September 11." According to media reports, her intention was to punish "Muslims" for the tragedy more than a decade ago. A month ago, another South Korean immigrant was pushed to an incoming subway after a brief exchange between himself and a homeless man. He died instantly.

With news that two people have also met their sudden death on a New York subway line -- I cannot help remember the conversations and what it meant for me as a loyal customer of the TTC.

In all the conversations that Giambrone had with Toronto's newest immigrants and his plan for his mayoral race, the only question I asked him was how much it would cost to have a protective barrier at all our subway stations in Toronto.

After all, I felt if China and most of the Scandinavian countries can have it -- why not Toronto? Even counties as diverse as Italy, Japan, Malaysia, and even South Korea have them. These countries installed them and did not wait for accidents to happen. Why not in Toronto?

Giambrone told me that to have those protective shields in all the stations, it would cost about $10 million and there was no political will to do it in Toronto.

As I often wait for my subway trains, I always worry about freak accidents that I am convinced will happen instantly. What will the next person do or act when the subway is pulling at the station? Can the New York incidents happen in Canada as well? Do I look "too ethnic" perhaps too much like a "muslim"? I am convinced it will happen to any one of the many people who take the TTC on a regular basis and I am sure it has happened in the past as well and we might not have taken it seriously.

I just wish there will be an instant political will to act in Toronto now. We should not let death to force us to act as we are too rich and powerful not to act before lives are lost.