Safety for our transit operators
Transit operators come to work each day in shifts around the clock, working early mornings and late nights, rain or shine, blizzard or black ice. They also never know if they will encounter a dangerous passenger on any given shift.
These operators are on the front lines. At times their jobs are stressful and challenging as they drive heavy-duty vehicles in difficult traffic conditions, provide customer service and, most importantly, ensure the safety of their passengers and other road users. They are also the first point of contact for customers who may be angry, impaired or mentally ill.
In the wake of the fatal stabbing of Irvine Fraser, an on-duty Winnipeg Transit bus driver, it is crucial to acknowledge that every time an operator gets behind the wheel or controls, they are putting themselves at risk. Ongoing improvements and innovation in operator safety must remain at the forefront for the transit industry.
Approximately 2,000 assaults on transit employees are reported each year in Canada. Transit operators are targets of threats, verbal abuse and thrown objects; they are grabbed, hit and spat on and sometimes much worse.
One attack against a bus operator is one too many; 2,000 attacks is plainly unacceptable. We must keep in mind that every attack on a bus operator puts passengers and public in the immediate area surrounding at a great risk.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution
The transit industry is working hard to protect employees, transit customers and members of the public, from violence. CUTA is playing a role in this effort through the Transit Ambassador program, working with transit systems to train operators to avoid, recognize and defuse potential conflicts.
Transit systems across the country have implemented a range of measures to improve the safety of their employees, for example:
- Specialized or plain clothes security: TransLink’s Transit Police in Metro Vancouver and OC Transpo’s Special Constables in Ottawa.
- Technology features: CCTV cameras and AVL/GPS on vehicles and in stations: Winnipeg Transit and Whitehorse Transit
- Driver protective shields: Edmonton Transit and the TTC
- Employee support and court programs: Award-winning Court Advocate Program at the TTC
- Building public awareness and customer engagement through smartphone apps and special SMS texting services: Metro Vancouver Transit Police’s “See Something, Say Something” tools include a mobile app, OnDuty and report-by-text system where transit riders can text (SMS) Transit Police Dispatch from their mobile phones in real-time.
Amending the Criminal Code
In 2014, a bill addressing violence against transit operators was introduced by Senator Bob Runciman. Bill S-221, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (assaults against public transit operators) responds to variations in sentencing for individuals convicted of similar assaults on transit operators.
The House of Commons unanimously approved Bill S-221 in February 2015.
Any assault on a transit operator is unacceptable. Addressing the issue of violence against transit employees is a key priority for industry members. CUTA will continue to lead in sharing best practices, and in seeking the active support of Canadian legislators, law enforcement agencies, and the judiciary.
Please read CUTA’s full issue paper Stopping Violence Against Transit Operators for more information