Winnipeg Transit considering multiple safety options for drivers

Winnipeg Transit says it’s willing to consider all scenarios to improve driver and public safety on its buses.

Dave Wardrop, city hall’s chief transportation and utilities officer, said all safety options will be considered in a forthcoming report, including hiring additional transit inspectors, shields, dedicated security force, enhanced driver training, on-board announcements, and more signage.

"We have to look at what we can do differently," Wardrop told reporters. "Right now, we have to be considering all options available."

In the wake of the recent fatal stabbing of driver Irvine Jubal Fraser, Transit is reconsidering an old idea – installation of a Plexiglas shield around the driver seat. That proposal was considered and rejected, largely because many drivers and their union believed it left drivers trapped and vulnerable with no way of escape.

Transit vehicles are already equipped with two-way radios and a panic button for drivers. There are four to five surveillance cameras on all buses.

Patrick Leclerc, president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), said Winnipeg has already implemented or tested all of the leading bus security and safety measures that are in place in the industry.

"You won’t find a silver bullet" as a solution to driver safety, Leclerc said. "There isn’t one thing that will make a huge difference — it’s a combination of many safety measures."

The following are some examples of recent security initiatives undertaken by transit authorities across the country, according to CUTA:

- Two-part Plexiglas barriers are available for Toronto Transit Commission operators — 98 per cent of whom use the lower panel and 16 per cent of whom use the upper panel.

- Automated vehicle location system lets supervisors for Guelph Transit (Ontario) track the precise location of each bus, and offers drivers an alarm button to alert the communications centre.

- Some transit authorities use closed-circuit video monitoring to detect and record incidents at transit stations and inside vehicles.

- Some transit systems have enhanced the legal powers of security personnel. Greater Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa are among communities that have granted police powers to specially trained staff. Those officers have powers of arrest and are able to enforce the Criminal Code as well as laws related to trespassing, liquor licensing and controlled substances.

- More than 300 closed-circuit cameras at Calgary Transit train stations are monitored around the clock, and trained staff quickly dispatch Protective Service officers, transit supervisors and police, ambulance or fire services when needed.

- Mississauga Transit security staff meet regularly with Peel Regional Police to share information and discuss issues of joint concern. The system has initiated major safety and security enhancements, including a new Transit Security Unit of eight officers, with one around-the-clock team dedicated to the Mississauga City Centre transit terminal and another acting as a mobile response unit.

- Vancouver's TransLink has developed an app for mobile devices that allows riders and the public to report incidents to transit security.