Edmonton looking into how to better protect city bus drivers

via CBC

Documents show 193 cases of violence against transit operators in 3.5 years

City officials say they are investigating how to keep Edmonton transit bus drivers safe from attacks.

From January 2014 to July of this year, there were 193 cases of violence against transit operators, according to documents which Postmedia originally obtained through a freedom of information request.

According to the documents, Edmonton Transit drivers have been punched, hit by objects such as a garbage can, and have had coffee thrown at them.

The FOIP documents also list four incidents of a sexual nature, including one individual who tried to kiss a driver.

One attack is one too many, said Chuck Van Deel Piepers, ETS customer safety director. He said that's why the city is reviewing how it handles such attacks.

One of the most pressing issues for the city right now is teaching operators how to safely handle potential violence, Van Deel Piepers said.

"I think probably our biggest concern is the amount of unprovoked attacks today on our operators. How do we address that? We're taking a look at how to give them tools to be prepared, to be alert and conscious of what's happening in their workplace," he said.   

Keeping drivers safe

Part of the review will look at what equipment is available that could better protect drivers from conflict.

It's an issue other Canadian cities are dealing with. Last week BC Transit unveiled new steel and glass shields to protect drivers from assaults. Winnipeg Transit is also testing similar barriers.

Experts say the numbers of attacks on transit operators has remained consistent in Canada.

According to the Canadian Urban Transit Association, there were 2,000 attacks against transit operators across Canada last year.

"Really the way we can address this problem is by implementing a series of measures," said president Patrick Leclerc.

Security cameras, mobile apps for the public to report incidents, and driving training programs are all steps cities can take to decrease the number of attacks on drivers, he said.

The more tools transit operators have at their disposal, the better, he said. 

"Bus operators provide a key role in keeping our cities moving. When you look at 2,000 assaults, it would be completely unacceptable in any industry. And that is completely unacceptable in our industry," Leclerc said.