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article imageOp-Ed: TTC Faces No-Win Situation in Fight to Prevent Cell Phone Photos

By Ben Fisher     Jan 30, 2011 in Technology
Toronto - In recent years, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has demonstrated a good deal of progress through technological advancement, from a new and improved website to television screens in subway stations that offer a news ticker and train updates.
It is, then, all the more perplexing as to how the Commission has gone about addressing riders who choose to use cell phone cameras as evidence gatherers in incriminating drivers who text and use their own phone as they drive, acts that are illegal in the province of Ontario.
“We ask that people not do that,” TTC spokesman Brad Ross said at a news conference on Friday. “We don’t require photographic evidence to discipline drivers. Cameras in the face of operators can escalate a situation that doesn’t need to be escalated.”
The explanation, itself, is already questionable in two ways. One, while they may not require photographic evidence to discipline drivers, is it not the most thorough and clear proof of behaviour in need of disciplinary action? And two, is Ross really suggesting that a simple photograph could serve as reason enough for a TTC employee to react confrontationally?
These issues aside, the central, underlying problem with the TTC’s stance is that they have placed themselves on the wrong side of technology.
It’s understandable that the TTC would want to control their own regulation and supervision of staff, but Friday’s edict fails to recognize both the need for the kind of transparency that user-generated content (ie. cell phone photos and video) allows and the riders’ interest in assuring adherence to safety by the public service.
The reality is that cell phone cameras aren’t going away anytime soon, and it isn’t reasonable to expect the public to blindly accept the Commission’s own disciplinary system ahead of the hard evidence that a pic of a texting driver provides. There is no incentive in, as the TTC would have riders do, reporting the bus and route number of the offending driver in hopes that the case is explored, especially when such illegal and irresponsible activity on the part of drivers directly jeopardizes the well-being for those he or she is being paid to serve.
Plus, as one commuter points out in the above story, “then it really just seems like it’s our word against their word”.
Sure, the ensuing media attention that each instance of irresponsible conduct by a TTC driver has inspired is embarrassing to the Commission, but to place blame on the shutterbug riders is akin to getting caught robbing a bank and chastising the security guard for watching you.
As with any company, the TTC will only hold so much control over the actions of their employees. Some will continue to run afoul of Commission policies regardless of what prohibitive measures are in place, while many are exceptional workers dragged down by their handful of offending colleagues.
But the onus is on the TTC to do all they can to ensure a commitment to good, consistent service, with the jury still out on whether they are doing so. The cell phone cameras may seem intrusive and unproductive, but they have the potential to lead to a transparency that the Commission shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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