Women’s safety group says city ‘antagonistic’ about dealing with bus gropings

OC Transpo’s security heads will be meeting with the leader of an anti-street harassment group Friday to address sexual assaults on city buses.

Since February, “nothing has moved, nothing has been said, nothing has been committed to,” said Hollaback! Ottawa director Julie Lalonde, adding Transpo GM John Manconi is scheduled to attend.

The group is pushing for public safety announcements after a series of sex assaults on buses and transit properties.

The response from the city has been antagonistic, said Lalonde.

“They really wanted this issue to die,” she said, noting media coverage has bolstered her campaign.

But improved safety on buses can be achieved when a transit authority collaborates with a women’s group.

At least 20 years ago, the Toronto Transit Commission worked with Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children.

The TTC implemented its Request Stop Program for women on city buses, dating back to at least the early 1990s, said spokesman Brad Ross.

Between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. “anybody on a bus route can request to be let off between (designated) stops,” said Ross.

Last year, the policy was revised to include everyone.

“It’s really for anybody who feels vulnerable or wishes to be let off closer to home because it’s late, or dark, we will do that, provided it is safe to do so.”

If others also ask to get off at the same location, “we leave it up to the individual who made the request first,” said Ross.

“The operator will say ‘are you OK with that?’ and if you say ‘no, I’m not,’ then they won’t let them off the bus.”

Designated Waiting Areas on subway platforms also came about, featuring enhanced lighting, an intercom linking riders with the station collector, a payphone, benches, and CCTV cameras.

“It also, when it was designed and developed, lines up with the fifth car of every subway train which is where the guard is located on the train,” said Ross.

Changes came following the summer of 1982 when Toronto saw a number of brutal sexual assaults and murders of women.

A group of women formed The Toronto Pink Ribbon Committee, demanding action.

METRAC was formed in 1984; a task force examining public violence against women and kids.

“Our objective, in carrying 1.7 million people every day, is to ensure that their time spent with us is safe,” Ross said, noting it should also be secure and free of harassment.

An event focussing on the issue is called The Open Forum on Harassment on Transit takes place May 15 at the Bronson Centre.




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