A Scourge of Scratchitti

My daily commute gives me a chance to look at the SRT in all its glory.  Lately, I have noticed that there is either an explosive growth in scratchitti on SRT cars, or that the TTC has simply stopped replacing the glass.

I can’t remember the last time I was on a car that had none at all, and things have now developed to the point where there are layers with one tagger overwriting another.  This problem is also starting to show up on the subway and in some stations.

The TTC embarked on a station cleanliness program last year and it has shown some results (with notable exceptions), but my sense is that scratchitti is getting out of hand.

I would be interested in hearing reports from other parts of the system.  This sort of problem is symptomatic of an organization that may have given up trying, and the real worry is what other invisible maintenance is also left for another day.

18 thoughts on “A Scourge of Scratchitti

  1. Trains on the Bloor line have seen this type of vandalism since 2000 or so. It’s fairly common to get on a Bloor train, especially the T1s, and see every window panel scratched over. It’s totally out of control on that line, and it’s very strange as Yonge trains are almost never vandalized in this way. There seems to be huge discrepancies in the effort made to replace glass panels between Wilson and Greenwood carhouses. I won’t assume that Greenwood doesn’t care, just maybe the problem is so bad they can’t keep on top of it, which leads me to wonder why the TTC doesn’t flood the Bloor and SRT lines with Special Constables to catch offenders.

    What I’m also wondering is why the TTC doesn’t apply scratch-proof coatings on the windows of trains, similar to (I may be wrong about this) the R-142, R-143, and R-160 trains in New York. When I’m in New York, I’ve noticed those are the only trains on the system whose windows are scratch-free, versus other trains that have windows so heavily scratched that you can’t even see out of them, which is where the SRT and Bloor trains seem to be heading, unfortunately.


  2. It would be good to see the TTC extend their litter advertising with a tagger on one side and a TTC worker replacing the tagged screen on the other, along the lines of “they scratch, you pay” – hopefully this will lead to some public pushback against the practice.

    I would also put stickers beside scratched windows for a short period pending repair, along the lines of “repairing this window will cost $x of the fares you paid”.

    I don’t mean to imply your post foreclosed on prevention rather than repair, just wanted to add that point.


  3. Scratchitti has been making a large appearance lately; I’ve almost never seen it on any trains until a few months ago; now it’s on almost every train I see. It’s also not restricted to the B-D line; the YUS is also heavily scratched.

    I know the T1 trains had this problem when they first debuted; but this was (apparently) solved. This time, all the train types are affected by it though.


  4. When I was growing up in Toronto I never, ever saw graffiti or scratchiti on the trains. I am stunned to hear that the city is in such decline that they have become commonplace. New York is a freaking disaster when it comes to this on all but the newest lines (which have that film mentioned above) and maintenance has given up. The TTC must act or it will descend into the ruined state that is the status quo in NYC. Without 26 lines and 400+ stations, that’s not very tolerable…


  5. Scratchitti <— Funny word.

    Anyways, I seen scratches in all the subway lines but I have not seen any on the Sheppard Stubway.

    I seen a lot of them in bus stops. There used to be a swaztika scratched on the Northbound stop of Route 68 Warden @ Sheppard…..this was about a year or so ago and it took some drunk to smash the panel to get it replaced…

    I seen spray paint tagging on those “towers” that control the traffic lights manually.

    What I am wondering is if one little tiny 1 inch by 1 inch on the glass windows is worth replacing the whole window.

    I understand if a swaztika or any other racist/hateful tag is put, but how big does it have to be that it should be replaced?

    I noticed the TTC is not that great in maintenance. Broadview has some wooden sticked screwed on the roof right above the tracks, i think it is on the east bound side.

    Though I do have to agree with posts above, most of the scratchitti is on the B-D line.


  6. I just hope that with the implementation of CCTV on streetcars, buses, and subway cars that the vandals will actually be caught and charged. However, if the cameras only record and only to be looked at after the fact when someone reports the problem without having someone monitor it, it may not stop it.


  7. I was on the Montreal Metro about 3 years ago and I thought this type of vandalism was bad there, I think we are catching up.


  8. This is definitely the sort of thing that needs to be nipped in the bud, if it’s not too late for that. Graffiti/scratchitti follows an exponential curve, and once it’s started it’s tough to stop (but it’s amazing how it ceases when stopped early on)


  9. Well, at last someone is raising the issue of Scrachitti! We have heard about dirty washrooms etc. but this is the first mention I have head anywhere about scratchitti.

    And yes it is very bad on the Bloor line!


  10. Actually, I’ve been seeing the plastic coats on the windows of streetcars (particularly towards the back), some buses and some subway windows. I find on the streetcars, the coating has extra glare and distorts some of the view angles. But I’ve noticed that this plastic coating is very easy to scratch! Perhaps the idea is to replace the coating every so often, but the regular glass seemed to be better than this new coat.


  11. The scratchitti problem was solved the first time around by a major window replacement blitz. Cars with new windows had a special decal on them to identify that they had already been done. As a less frequent rider on the B-D than I used to be, I’ve noticed that the maintenance doesn’t seem to be as good as on the Y-U-S. The car exteriors are dirtier (partially because the T-1s don’t have the rain gutter catching all the dirt running off the roof, so it streaks down the car sides – perhaps the wash rack at Greenwood is also contributing), the interiors are usually much dirtier in the winter, and the scratchitti is definitely more prominent. A major cleaning blitz would improve the situation.


  12. I was just out walking on King and Queen Streets East around the Don River and many (most?) of the transit shelters are ‘decorated” with scrachetti too. Of course THEY are not a TTC responsibility but it’s clear that it is a big problem. As George S says, above, Montreal has had this problem for years.


  13. I thought it was pretty common knowledge that the YUS line gets better attention than BD because of tourism. They keep that line in better shape, because it is the only line that most visitors to Toronto will ride. We all know this city is all about keeping up appearances.

    It’s also the same reason that on a blistering hot day, you can ride YUS without breaking a sweat, but if you switch over to BD, the trains are a good 10 degrees warmer on average.

    Steve: A lot depends on what type of car you ride. The H4s, which have no AC, run on BD. They are supposed to be peak only, but sometimes one is used for a changeoff and stays out all day. On the YUS, you get the H5 cars whose AC was always woefully underpowered and which adds an odour to the cars whose source we all would likely prefer not to know.


  14. While the scratchitti is certainly annoying, I find the dirty seats, floors and even windows to be more off-putting. For a while this past winter, I used to get the same train coming straight out of Greenwood yard every morning at around 7:20 am, and I would see the same stains and grime in the interior of the train. It’s gross to see grease from someone’s hair smeared onto a side glass panel next to the doors, especially when it’s been there for weeks. It’s also disgusting to see stains, crumbs and ground-in dirt all over the seats, to the point that it becomes a challenge to find a clean seat on an EMPTY subway car! These are the problems that can be easily and affordably addressed, comparatively speaking. Deal with this first, then focus on the pricier items such as scratchitti.

    As an aside, I should mention that, apart of the scratchitti, I found the NYC trains to be cleaner than the TTC’s when I was down there in May. The seats and floors were far cleaner, and it makes me wonder why a system with over 20 lines and five times the amount of routes can run trains that are cleaner and more presentable than ours. What gives?


  15. I can’t personally speak for the subway or streetcar systems, but I can give a little insight as to the bus network. The theory is that each bus is fuelled, swept out, and exterior washed each night as it returns to the the garage. Major cleaning takes place on a rotating schedule where each vehicle receives an interior wash out and heavy cleaning. At my division (Birchmount), EIGHT vehicles receive major cleaning each weekday. Instances of graffitti/scratchetti, unclean/unsanitary seats is handled as part of the major clean cycle UNLESS reported by an operator as part of the daily sign-in procedure.

    At Birchmount, which has approximately 200 vehicles, this would mean that the schedule is every 5 weeks (200/40 (8X5) for a vehicle to receive its major cleaning. I don’t know how this works at other bus divisions, but would assume that that it pretty much a standardized process. As you can imagine, as vehicles get closer to the time of their major clean, they are certainly getting very dirty, but (in theory) have at least been swept out each night after service.


  16. I work at Greenwood yard and I can definitely tell you scratchitti is a major problem on the Bloor/Danforth line. It is not surprising to see a car full of scratched glass panels. At Greenwood yard, dozens of brand new glass panels in boxes are lined up, ready to replace the ones currently on the trains. In general, the BD line has dirtier subway trains than the YUS line. It is pretty common to see a BD train at the end of service, to be full of newspapers, spilt coffee all the floor, graffiti all over the seats and walls, and sometimes unsanitary things such as vomit. As to answer your question fiendish, the supervisors acknowledge that scratchitti is a problem and have considered putting scratch-proof plastics over the glass, but I haven’t seem them do anything about it. I feel the best way to combat scratchitti is by advertising it, just like the TTC has with the litter program.

    Leo Gonzalez, I’m not sure about the winter months but every train that goes out in service gets swept, dusted, floor washed/mopped, de-gummed, and removed of graffiti every night. However, I can tell you there are more people who clean the subway trains in summer than any other time in the year. This is because in addition to the employees whose job is to clean a train, there are summer students (i.e. seasonal employees) who also clean the trains. So there is more manpower cleaning the subway trains during the summer. I’m not saying your description of your train is exaggerating, but if there’s any part of the train (e.g. graffiti) that cannot be cleaned, the supervisor is usually informed and the problem should be taken care of.

    Gord, that is exactly how the subway trains work (Greenwood) except for the daily exterior wash, which I believe it’s every few days the trains get washed on the outside. The trains go through the same 20-30 day cycle of receiving a “major” and “minor”, both of you are a more thorough cleaning of a subway car.

    In spite of all the litter and scratchitti on subway trains, I feel Toronto’s subway system is one of the cleaner metros. I know for a fact that the TTC takes pride in that. If riders really want to see cleaner subway trains, they have to do their part as well, especially with newspapers. Banning eating and drinking would solve a lot of problems, but we all know that is no longer a possibility!


  17. No question the TTC isn’t as clean as it used to be – the graffiti and scratchitti at the back of the buses is worse than I’ve seen it in almost 10 years. Perhaps it’s time for another serious anti-graffiti blitz like we saw in the David Gunn era to get TTC cleaned up again.

    Steve: There was supposed to be money in the budget for such a campaign this year, but either it has not started, or the “artists” are staying ahead of the maintenance staff.


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