Toronto transit riders and advocates demanding cell service on the TTC

Transit riders and advocates are speaking out about the dire need of cell service on the TTC. (Courtesy: Vlad Podvorny/flickr)


In the wake of increasing violence on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), riders and advocates are sounding the alarm for underground cellular service within the transit system. 

Following the recent death of 16-year-old teen Gabriel Magalhaes at Keele station, the community is reeling and in search of safety solutions. 

“A lot of things happen in the subway that might be inappropriate…There are also people that get into fights. There are people that behave aggressive on the subway, and anything can happen. It can lead to something being more detrimental or more serious,” Indra Campbell told Now Toronto.

“If that happens, if you have a cell phone you’re able to connect with emergency services, 911, the police,” Campbell added.

Campbell works as an employee at not-for-profit and community-based organization COTA health. COTA says its been supporting adults with mental health and cognitive challenges in the community for over 45 years. 

“For the sake of safety, I know that there are some buttons but in terms of emergency, you’re not going to go find one right away, so mobiles are the best way in terms of convenience,” Megha Nayak, fellow COTA employee, said. 

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Users on Twitter have also shared their thoughts and discontent with the lack of service on TTC.


According to The Star, the TTC signed a deal with BAI Communications Inc. in 2012 for cellular network. BAI agreed to pay the TTC $25 million over 20 years to operate and install Wi-Fi and cellular service in the subway system. 

In 2015, Freedom Mobile signed a deal with BAI to use the network, however it is unknown how much Freedom agreed to pay BAI. 

Until today, only Freedom Mobile customers are able to get service on the TTC, unlike customers who use Rogers, Bell and Telus.

However, Freedom Mobile claims their coverage includes the Line 1 extension and the downtown line between Bloor-Yonge station and St. Patrick station. This is in addition to service at all subway station platforms, mezzanines, and toll booths.

Canada’s three largest telecom companies- Rogers, Bell and Telus-have allegedly refused to pay and use BAI because they would rather use their own provider.


Former city councillor Ana Bailão, who is running to be mayor in the upcoming spring by-election, supports the need for cell service on the TTC. 

“We can’t go into a subway and feel the safety of being able to pick up the phone and text messaging somebody, even to use the text tip line that the TTC created, we have to wait until it comes above line. That’s not acceptable,” she told Now Toronto on Thursday. 

If elected mayor, she says she will move city cell phone contracts with Bell, Telus and Rogers to companies that offer reliable mobile service on the TTC.

“We need to make sure that we call these telecoms to come to the table. I’m putting them on notice, this service needs to be part of the solution,” Bailão said.

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Anne Marie Aikins, the former head of communications for Metrolinx, also says she will be holding these top telecoms accountable.

For now, subway riders under Canada’s top carriers are still unable to make an emergency call on their own phones and must wait until the train resurfaces above-ground. 



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