The City of Edmonton plans to improve the safety of transit drivers on routes where violent incidents have occurred on buses in the past.
The city will install Plexiglass shields on buses along problem routes and hire nine peace officers to ride on these buses, Ron Gabruck, director of safety and security for Edmonton Transit said Monday.
"The safety shield, there is a prototype out there right now that we're testing .… We have nine peace officers that are in training that will be deployed onto the streets and onto buses from time to time," Gabruck said.
"We will determine which routes are most active, and that's where we'll be putting our peace officers," he said.
Peace officers receive similar training to that given to police officers. They carry handcuffs and pepper spray, but do not carry guns.
There were 800 violent incidents on city transit last year which resulted in a call from the Amalgamated Transit Union for additional steps to improve the safety of bus drivers.
"There's no need for any sort of altercation on a bus, and some of these folks need to know that there's measures in place to ensure that our operators and the passengers are safe on the system," union local president Stu Litwinowich said.
"I think it just adds that little bit of personal security," said John Tucker, a bus driver for three years.
He's driving a bus which is testing one of the shields.
"It will come in handy and not just for assault things even things like spitting, Tucker said.
The shields make sense to bus passenger Brenton Mah, but he isn't so sure about the need for peace officers on buses.
"I don't want it to the point where the atmosphere becomes too tense with too much security people," Mah said.
City officials aren't sure how many buses will be equipped with safety shields, saying it depends on how many drivers request them.
The new security measures could be in place by October.