Bus drivers across Winnipeg gathered in front of city hall this morning to promote transit safety.
In response to a fatal assault on a Winnipeg bus operator, The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) organized a rally to demand transit safety in buses across the city. ATU wants Winnipeg to add new safety tools, including shields and better training for the operators.
"I was talking about the need to have police on buses," Winnipeg city councilor Matt Allard said. "We did see a reduction in assaults last year but clearly more needs to be done."
"We need to be doing more to ensure their protection."
ATU says that there are many technologies that already exist that would better protect the drivers.
"There are shields that are retractable," said John Callahan, president of ATU. "The technologies exist."
Callahan says that disputes and arguments can happen for many different reasons, including buses that are late because of either traffic or scheduling issues. He says people don't call 311, they instead yell at the bus driver. But there is one thing that causes more arguments than any other.
"Two-thirds of assaults are a result of fare disputes," Callahan said. "That's one thing that we will continue to push for, is to have fare collection taken out of the hands of a bus operators."
There were 45 assaults on drivers during 2016. Callahan would love to see that number continue to drop, using improved operator training, safety measures such as shields, and better public awareness on Winnipeg Transit rules.
Callahan pointed out the third bus rule in particular. When there are three or more buses at a Transit stop, the third bus will always stop a second time, to ensure everyone can get on. During the winter months, snowbanks can prohibit the driver from opening the door if they are the third bus due to safety concerns. "People will yell at the drivers for not opening the door," Callahan said, but they are only following the rules set by Winnipeg Transit.