Optimism follows a meeting between OC Transpo bigwigs and the leader of an anti-street harassment group.
Whether it’s acknowledged or not, sexual assaults are happening on buses, and “we deserve better as transit riders, and I think they’re starting to get that,” said Hollaback! Ottawa director Julie Lalonde.
Friday’s meeting addressed sex crimes and Transpo’s safety policies.
“I think the media pressure definitely had an impact, because tone was different,” said Lalonde.
“They had an ‘aha’ moment, I think, where they realized that they were looking at this issue the wrong way and that our intention was never to make OC Transpo look bad or to say that OC Transpo was unsafe and that no one should take transit.”
Transpo GM John Manconi agreed the meeting was productive.
“The common goal is that we educate the public that safety is everyone’s responsibility,” Manconi told the Sun over the phone.
A joint initiative is being explored.
“We’ve identified some opportunities that they want us to explore, things such as ad campaigns on our buses,” said Manconi.
“We certainly cleared the air on, you know, what we thought was effective and not effective, and what’s important about that is having a good understanding of what you’re trying to communicate out is important.” Other stakeholders are welcome to join the campaign.
Lalonde said clarifying different types of crime was also key.
“I think they understood that when we talk about sexual violence on transit, it’s completely different than having a conversation about swarmings,” said Lalonde.
If a person has been sexually assaulted on the bus, “I’m humiliated and I don’t want more attention put on me so I’m just trying to get away from the situation … telling people to press a button or to go to the driver is not effective,” said Lalonde.
“People are not going to do it.”
Management was also supportive of next month’s transit forum, held by Hollaback! and Women’s Initiatives For Safer Environments.
Overall, “I think there was a very good understanding that our commitment to safety is second to none,” said Manconi.
He wouldn’t commit to a timeline for the project, calling it an “ongoing process.”
The groups are meeting again in two weeks.