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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.


  • Jason

    Poor old toronto will always want to be like newyork

  • SonuvaScrimbro

    Sucks to be the riders inconvenienced by the TCC pulling the trains, but Ross is right: you let those trains go into service, and it just encourages other idiots to do the same thing. And anyone who wants to advance the theory that “graffiti is art” is more than welcome to explain how they would be totally fine with waking up tomorrow and finding their own car or house blessed with someone else’s “art.”

  • OgtheDim

    Wasn’t that much of a wait……10 minutes as against 7.

    • innsertnamehere

      10 mins instead of 5. 2 trains are half of what the TTC operates on Sheppard.

      • OgtheDim

        Usual headway for my commute is 7.

  • torontothegreat

    So where are all the graffiti apologists to defend this?

    • OgtheDim

      Maybe they choose not to defend this. You know, that whole situational ethical thing, as against railing against all graffiti as a matter of course.

      • torontothegreat

        No, I don’t know the “whole situational ethical thing”.

        It’s more of a curious observation of “If you’re going to defend something, have the damn fortitude to defend it”

        “railing against all graffiti as a matter of course”

        Which is why I posed the question… Because the apologists do defend it – ad nauseum – and this is the first time I’m hearing the crickets chirp.

        • TheSotSays

          You blew it there. Compared with OgtheDerp a cricket would be considered an articulate genius.

          This is a dit with a graffiti tattoo of Olivia Chow on his lard behind.

          • torontothegreat

            I think you just gave me an idea of my next tattoo! Thx idiot.

    • TheSotSays

      They’re all busy trying to get Chow elected.

  • Notcleverguy

    How is this any different from the other delays that happen on a daily basis?

    I swear that when I used to ride the subway to work (I do not anymore) there was a delay with an announcement on the way to work or on the way home everyday.
    This is one of the main reasons I stopped taking the TTC.

    • dsmithhfx

      Strangely, decades of underfunding have not made it super-reliable.

      • TheSotSays

        Well to use one of your own precious expressions, there’s just too much NDP “hemoraghing.”

  • Brian Wong

    i like graffiti on the trains.

  • Parkdae

    NYC subways in the late 70′s were absolutely destroyed – more than anyone could do in a few days here. There were layers and layers of graffiti, inside and out. If this car could be cleaned in less than a day, then there’s really no comparison.

  • ei(pi)+1=0

    I thought Sheppard trains were left on Sheppard overnight since the storage yards are so far away. did they go into the tunnels, or are only some of the trains stored in the tunnels and others return to the yard.

  • poktik

    we need armed Subway Marshals in every car and paint-sniffing dogs at every station. spray paint is the single greatest threat to national security.

  • jamaalism

    meh… its a subway.. the cars on Line 2 (Bloor/Danforth) are always extra dingy anyways so maybe they should let them get tagged if they can’t keep them clean.

    I just saw a tagged train in Amsterdam and it wasn’t so bad:

  • 00AV