Bring on the protective shields to separate bus drivers from physically abusive passengers, say OC Transpo riders.
A handful of passengers polled at Greenboro station Wednesday were unanimously in favour of bolstering efforts to keep drivers safe.
“If this is happening to bus drivers I think they need to be protected,” said veteran transit user Sandra Walker.
“I don’t care what message it gives about Ottawa being unsafe.”
A segregated operator won’t keep her from taking the bus, but “people hurting the drivers might deter me,” said Walker.
A Transpo driver suffered a broken nose at the hands of an angry passenger for running late while driving Route 99 on July 26.
Toronto-based security consultant David Hyde is calling on Transpo to install shields.
Currently ranging from $600 to $4,000 each, Hyde recommends Transpo use retractable models, allowing drivers to choose if and when they’re used.
“Some buses may not require it, if the bus isn’t traveling on routes that may have an elevated risk of violence,” said Hyde.
Violent attacks are tracked and “there may be some patterns with respect to which routes traveling to which destinations tend to be higher risk, or which times,” said Hyde.
Jessica Tamer lives near Manotick and takes the bus to school each day.
“I feel like if people are going around hitting bus drivers for being late, it’s necessary,” said Tamer.
People react differently when agitated, she points out.
“Some people are going to get mad, so it’s good to be safe.”
Mohamed Misellati lives in the south end and supports the initiative.
“I think it’s an overreaction to think that Ottawa’s unsafe because it doesn’t take much for a bus driver to get hurt,” he said.
“It just takes one person that’s in a bad mood so I think it’s probably a good idea to do it.”
Is the city doing enough to protect bus drivers?
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 vice-president Sharon Bow dodged that question a few times.
“We have training but sometimes you just don’t know who you’re picking up when you’re dealing with the public,” she said.
Transpo GM John Manconi said management is collaborating with the union.
“We share a common value that security and safety has to be an overarching principle in everything we do,” he said.
Enhancements to beef-up security will be announced shortly, Manconi said.
TWITTER CHAT: How do you feel about riding a bus with protective shields for drivers? Would it reflect poorly on Ottawa?
“All buses in London, UK have the same and it doesn’t reflect badly on them.” (@MalloryClyne)
“I had that on the TTC and I feel no difference. There is still a speaker area in case you need assistance.” (@GTAmissions1)
“If it makes them feel safer then yes, by all means.” (@GregVGSwaine)