The shoving of two teenagers in front of an oncoming subway train has ignited talk about placing a barrier between people and tracks, something common for brand-new subways around the world.
But before the TTC can install barriers here, it must complete the job that's about to get under way of jettisoning its 60-year-old subway signal system.
At London's Westminster Station, reconstructed in 1999, a transparent glass wall separates passengers from Jubilee-line trains. The trains' doors line up with doors in the platform barrier as the vehicle stops. Tokyo, Paris and Shanghai all have similar doors, which also help with crowd control, and New York is considering them.
Even before last week's incident, the Toronto Transit Commission has been pondering platform-edge doors, first for its six-station extension of the Spadina subway line. The costs - estimated at $6-million a station - are not yet in the budget.
No decision has been made on whether to retrofit Toronto's existing 69 subway stations, which could cost up to $500-million and take decades. To even have the option, the transit agency is about to start updating its subway signal system.
The TTC's standard railway signals, common on most similar systems, are meant to ensure no two trains get close enough to risk a collision.
The system consists essentially of traffic lights for drivers that are activated by trip switches beneath the trains that can also trigger emergency brakes if a driver blows through a red light. It was one of these trip arms that failed in 1995, resulting in the deaths of three passengers.
The TTC plans to award a $342-million contract in April to replace this system on the Yonge-University-Spadina line with "automatic train control," in which computers control the trains - now standard for new systems worldwide. (While some systems operate without human drivers, TTC officials say they still plan to have staff on board each subway train.)
Computers are said to be more reliable than humans, and can run trains much closer together - 90 seconds apart as opposed to the TTC's current two minutes and 20 seconds. They can also stop on a dime, with only a 25-centimetre margin of error. It is this capability that makes platform-edge doors a possibility as trains coming to a stop can reliably line up their doors with those on the platform.
The entire YUS line should be switched over by 2016, when the Spadina extension up to Vaughan is ready to open, making it possible to unveil its new stations with platform doors. Other stations could be gradually retrofitted.
The technology isn't actually new to Toronto at all. It was pioneered here and first installed on the Scarborough Rapid Transit line that opened in 1985, which nonetheless still has staff on board.
The current heir to the company that developed automatic train control for the Ontario Crown corporation that built the Scarborough RT is Thales Rail Signalling Solutions Inc., the Canadian wing of the Thales Group, a Paris-based aerospace giant.
The firm is in the running for the TTC's automatic-train-control contract, along with competitors Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens.
Inside its warren-like offices in North York, more than 900 engineers - and counting, even in a recession - build automated subway systems for cities worldwide. Under signs labelled "Beijing" and "Las Vegas," a bunker of fridge-sized computers hums away as engineers test their failsafe systems on virtual versions of these cities' subway lines. Almost all of these new automated systems will have platform-edge doors.
But even platform doors are not a safety guarantee. In 2007, they were blamed for their very first death, after a passenger trying to push his way onto a Shanghai subway train got caught between the shutting train doors and platform doors and fell under the train.