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Self-defence on the TTC: Five factors to consider

Public transit assaults in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) have been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, violence against passengers on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) experienced a significant uptick, with violent incidents increasing by 46% from the previous year and 60% from 2019, before the pandemic. This rise in violence occurred despite a decrease in ridership compared to 2019. The escalation prompted the TTC and Toronto police to implement additional safety measures, including an increase in the presence of officers, community safety ambassadors, and security guards across the transit system​ (CityNews Toronto)​.

For those who use public transit, what factors should we consider regarding our safety? 

Here are five factors to consider.


1. You need to practice Situational Awareness. Be aware of your surroundings—the people, the exits, etc.… For instance, if you sit, face the aisle to see everyone in all directions.  Try to minimize distractions (e.g. your phone).  Check out our blog (What is Situational Awareness?) for an overview of this topic. 

2. You are in a confined Space. A subway or bus is a confined space with limited escape options. You might be forced to stay and fight - be ready for this. Escape when and if possible.

3. You have limited room. Subway and bus aisles don’t offer much room to move, especially during busy travel times. You must also be aware of obstacles such as seats, poles, suitcases, walls, and other people. Learn how to use these obstacles in your favour.

4. Can you get help? Subways, for instance, have emergency notification systems. Be aware of where they are and how to use them. You can also yell for help, but do not assume bystanders will intervene.  Some will, but don’t forget that bystanders are generally not trained and are likely frightened. 

5. Learn to defend from a sitting position and in confined spaces. There is a decent chance you will be either sitting or in a confined space when an assault takes place. If you are involved in self-defence training, ask your instructor for tips and training specific to public transit scenarios.


Public transit is generally safe. But, be aware of your surroundings, and if you are involved in self-defence training, ask your instructor to help you prepare for various scenarios specific to transit travel. We will explore more specific ways to promote safe travel in future blogs.  

Want to learn more? Join our April 14 Women-only Workshop designed to equip you with the skills and techniques to better respond to real-life situations.

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