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Public transit is one of the safest ways to travel

When a public transit accident occurs, as it did so tragically in Ottawa in January, it understandably shocks members of the public who rely on transit to get them where they are going safely and efficiently. Incidents are thoroughly investigated to learn what can be done to prevent future occurrences. In this context, research clearly shows that public transit is one of the safest ways to travel in Canada.

According to a 2018 Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) report called Safer Than You Think! Revising the Transit Safety Narrative, passengers on public transit experience fewer than one in 10 of the per-kilometre crashes that automobile occupants do. Furthermore, transit-reliant communities that rely on pedestrian, cyclist and passenger transit services have fewer than one in five of the total per-capita traffic deaths associated with car-dependent communities. The VTPI report says there are fewer deaths on bus and urban rail transit per billion passenger kilometres as compared to other modes, including automobile travel in urban and rural environments.  

Despite statistics like these that show transit’s clear safety record, the report also found that some citizens question the safety and security of transit and are reluctant to use it or support transit’s expansion into their communities. According to the report, this fear may be partly influenced by media coverage of transit-related accidents as well as conventional traffic safety messages that often emphasize danger over safety.

An important part of CUTA’s mandate is to assure the public that transit is safe and secure. Our members prioritize the safety and security of riders and the public when operating and maintaining their fleets. This is evident in the routine and thorough safety checks that are in place at Canadian transit systems from coast to coast, including but not limited to: frequent vehicle maintenance, inspections and testing; regular driver training and testing; driver criminal record checks; accident investigations; and in some regions, random drug and alcohol testing. Transit systems also maintain secure environments at operating installations and passenger stations that have experienced strong user growth over the last decade.

CUTA supports its members in the achievement of a safety-and-security first culture in the garage and on the road. The association offers training programs that support transit systems in ensuring that their bus and train drivers are safe and secure operators. For example, CUTA’s Transit Ambassador program offers a series of training modules that address crucial topics and everyday scenarios in transit customer service. These modules teach operators about effective two-way communication with customers, managing stress, and handling difficult or dangerous situations.

CUTA’s STRADA recruitment tool empowers transit systems to identify the right person to put in the driver's seat by using an assessment survey that helps human resources staff determine which candidates to bring in for an interview. The questions dig into the candidate's innate personality traits to determine whether they possess the key competencies that will enable them to excel in the role.

Lastly, CUTA launched a national transit and urban mobility safety and security task force in November 2018 that will bring together safety and security leaders from across Canada to build and share knowledge of best practices. Topics that may be addressed by the task force include driver and passenger assaults, fitness-for-duty policies and the safety of women in transit. Task force members will consult with other CUTA members and advise CUTA’s board of directors on safety and security issues of national importance. Members should contact Wendy Reuter, Vice-President – Member Value for further information on the task force. 

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