Toronto mayoral candidate Bailao promises cell service on TTC if elected

After more violence on the TTC, mayoral candidate Ana Bailao says, if elected, she will cancel $30 million dollars worth of city cell phone contracts with Bell, Rogers, and Telus, if they continue to refuse coverage underground. Tina Yazdani reports.

By Lucas Casaletto

Former Toronto city councillor and mayoral candidate Ana Bailão says she will push city cell phone contracts with major Canadian telecom companies to offer reliable mobile service on the TTC if elected in June.

Underground cell service in Toronto is still widely unavailable despite the infrastructure being in place since 2015. Bailão, who announced her intention to run as mayor of Toronto two weeks ago, says commuters and transit riders need cell service now.

“City contracts with the three major telcos [Bell, Telus and Rogers] come to over $30 million in business,” Bailão said in a statement on Thursday.

“This morning, council will consider a request to the TTC to use reserve funds to address safety. While this is a necessary measure, there is more that can be done. We need mobile service across our transit system, and we needed it yesterday. TTC riders shouldn’t have to hold their breath and wait for their train to go above ground to use TTC safety apps and text-a-tip lines.”

RELATED: TTC increases outreach as expert calls for guaranteed income in response to violence

All 75 subway stations and tunnel portions are equipped with talk, text, and data technology. Freedom Mobile is the only current carrier that has agreed to the licensing terms to provide customers with service underground.

None of the other major telecommunications companies, including Bell, Rogers and Telus, have signed on to provide service.

Calls for underground cell service have been made after a disturbing rise in violent attacks involving the TTC, including stabbings, armed robberies and assaults. Most recently, 16-year-old Gabriel Magalhaes was fatally stabbed in an unprovoked attack at Keele Subway Station.

“The issue we are seeing on the TTC are public safety issues. If Rogers is seriously ‘committed to being part of the solution,’ they will take action today,” Bailão continued. “Telecom companies don’t get to decide if there’s mobile service on the TTC; elected officials do.”

Earlier this month, the TTC introduced a texting service “SMS text a tip” for riders to report safety concerns and submit details and images. TTC riders can also use the SafeTTC app, free on iOS and Android devices.

In addition to public transit, Bailão has said if she’s elected, she will try to make the province responsible for the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway (DVP), freeing up money to address Toronto’s housing issues.

“I’m very passionate about my values and what I believe, and I’m very passionate about the city. I’m very passionate about delivering better services and more affordability for Toronto,” Bailão said. “And so I’m ready to fight for that and the residents of Toronto.”

Ontario Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter and Toronto councillor Brad Bradford are the most recent candidates to announce a run for Toronto’s mayor. They and Bailão add their names to a list of stated contenders, including Coun. Josh Matlow, former police chief Mark Saunders and Gil Peñalosa, who came second to Tory in the last mayoral race.

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