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How Graffiti Caused a Subway Slowdown

Two trains were taken off the tracks after overnight vandalism.

Photo by Barbs–, from the Torontoist Flickr pool.

Graffiti, of all things, was the cause of this morning’s delays on the Sheppard subway line. TTC employees came to work early this morning to find large graffiti murals on two trains. “Do a Google image search of New York City in the ’70s—it’s almost as bad as that,” says TTC spokesperson Brad Ross.

The trains were taken out of commission, and while some riders expressed surprise and dismay that graffiti could knock subways out of service, Ross stressed that the TTC’s graffiti eradication policy is clear: vandalized vehicles must be taken off the tracks (or roads) and cleaned within 24 hours. Removing trains from service also gives the police the opportunity to collect and document any evidence.

Even when it comes to smaller tags, the graffiti eradication policy is strict. “Just in general, any type of graffiti, our policy is to remove it within 24 hours,” says Ross. “It goes along the lines of the broken window theory: if you don’t remove it, then it’s going to spread. Because people are going to think it’s okay.”

An investigation into the vandalism has been launched, and the TTC is currently in the middle of a complete review of security to figure out how these uninvited transit artists—who, Ross notes, could be putting their own safety at risk—are accessing trains after hours.

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