Toronto’s Clean Trains

On December 2, 2014 by ejoveski

Tagged and graffitied subways are a rare sight these days. Anyone caught vandalizing a TTC vehicle nowadays can face hefty fines and even jail time. But in the 70’s and 80’s, when graffiti culture was beginning to soar, vandalism was a persistent problem for many cities, and no real solution had been found.

David Gunn is the guy credited with eradicating subway graffiti, in New York City, and in Toronto and other cities across North America. He was the first to encourage cities to view vandalism not as an aesthetic problem, but as a lapse in standard maintenance for their vehicles. Starting from his time as president of the New York City Transit Authority, and then as Chief of Toronto’s Transit Commission in 1995, vandalized trains would be taken out of service for cleaning, even at the risk of delays, as an effective means of discouraging would-be vandals.

Check out our interactive timeline of the history of the “Clean Trains Movement” in New York and Toronto:


As Torontonians, seeing subway graffiti in the wild is a bit like seeing a unicorn. Except that it’s rarely pretty – either done hastily, unimaginatively, or both. See below for a collection of spotted subway graffiti – here one minute and gone the next.

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