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Doug Ford suggests automated fare system in wake of TTC shooting

A police handout photo of a June 11, 2011 robbery is shown here. Police believe the TTC attack on Sunday February 26th at Dupont Station is the work of the same man.

Handout/Toronto Police

The attack on the Toronto Transit Commission fare collector, who was shot during a robbery attempt Sunday at Dupont, is the third at the station since June and all are believed to be the work of the same man.

The first robbery took place on June 11 at 9:26 pm. The second was on Oct. 2, at 7:55 p.m., close to the same time as Sunday's shooting, which occurred at about 7:20 p.m. In the first two cases, the man showed a gun and left with an undisclosed amount of cash. On Sunday, he did not receive cash and police say he turned as he was leaving and fired three shots at the booth.

Two of those shots hit the victim, one in the throat and one in the neck. The collector, a 10-year veteran of the system, is a father in his 50s. He is expected to make a full recovery, said TTC interim general manager Andy Byford.

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Sources have identified the fare collector as William Anderson.

Police are looking for a white, heavy set man between the age of 35 and 50 and between 5-feet, 5 inches and 5 feet, 9 inches in height. On all three occasions he wore dark clothing. On the first occasion he wore a surgical mask to cover his face. In October and Sunday police say he wore a balaclava.

In all three incidents, he fled on foot north along Spadina Avenue.

Police also are looking for witnesses to Sunday's shooting, including a man who they say chased the shooter along the street.

Transit union head Bob Kinnear said he has spoken with Mr. Anderson's wife, who told him she feared for her husband's safety after the earlier robberies at the Dupont station.

"His wife has raised concerns prior to this incident about the well-being of her husband," Mr. Kinnear said. "She re-emphasized those concerns today, saying every night that he went to work she was very concerned for his safety. It is scary out there for our people. It is unfortunate."

Mayor Rob Ford called Sunday night's shooting of a TTC worker "terrible," and Monday suggested he's open to replacing collectors with an automated fare system to help keep workers safe.

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"It's terrible that our collectors are in that sort of danger," Mr. Ford told reporters at his weekly weigh-in. "Every time I take the TTC I feel safe. But speak to the collectors, I don't work there."

The mayor's brother, Councillor Doug Ford, offered his condolences to the injured employee and his family before floating the idea of replacing transit booth workers with machines.

Asked what more could be done to protect transit collectors, the councillor pointed to New York City as an example.

"How many of you have been to New York? You know there isn't any collectors. You use your pass or your card so maybe that's the avenue to look at," he said.

"It's an idea," the mayor added. "We have to look at that and see if it's feasible."

Mr. Kinnear said automated payment systems are not the answer. If stations are not safe for staff, how can they be safe for the public? he said.

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"The collectors are the eyes and ears of the system," he said. "It is very, very important, we believe, to have an employee there."

Mr. Kinnear said the union is concerned about the number of robberies and staff assaults and is working with management to reduce those numbers. Measures include reducing cash on hand, especially at the end of the month when riders are buying Metropasses, he said.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz pointed out that the TTC is already inching in the direction Councillor Ford suggested with the Presto smart-card initiative.

"We are moving towards Presto and to a smart card technology," she said. "So we know by 2015 that we will change the way fares are collected in the city and I think that's very positive."

Mr. Byford, who took over as interim TTC leader less than a week ago, called the shooting "outrageous."

"No one comes to work to be shot or assaulted," he told reporters Monday morning.

The TTC has given a clear picture of the suspect to police, he said, and will continue to review its security measures.

Aside from a greater police presence in the coming days, he said there will be no other immediate changes.

"I don't want to knee-jerk into any possible solutions," he said. "We have already taken measures to reduce the risks to our collectors. Clearly the events of last night suggest we need to reconsider that. "

TTC staff face on average 2 assaults a day, but violent attacks are rare. A collector was killed in 1995 and more recently a driver was shot and lost sight in one eye, a transit spokesman said.

The mayor was speaking at his weekly weigh-in as part of his Cut the Waist Challenge. He admitted to struggling with his diet before stepping on the scale, where it was revealed that he gained a pound. He weighed in at 310 lbs, up from 309 pounds. He started the weight-loss challenge at 330 lbs.

Councillor Ford, meanwhile, lost another three pounds, weighing in at 250 lbs. He's down 25 lbs.

With reports from Joe Friesen

Kelly Grant is the Globe's City Hall Bureau Chief

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