A new report is recommending more protection for Winnipeg’s bus drivers — including officers on problem routes and fines for unruly passengers.
Tim Bahry has been a Winnipeg Transit bus driver for the past 13 years and said he’s regularly worried about the safety of his passengers and himself.
"I’ve been sworn at many a time. I’ve been punched," said Bahry.
Dave Sauer, the president of the Winnipeg Labour Council, says Bahry isn’t alone — Winnipeg has a high rate of assaults on transit buses compared to other cities.
"Montreal is five times the size of Winnipeg but has only a dozen more assaults than we do, so I think that’s quote telling that the situation needs to be dealt with," said Sauer.
Winnipeg Transit helps about 20 per cent of Winnipeggers commute each day, but right now, there are few protections in place for riders and drivers.
"It’s a problem to try and detain these people or keep them there, and it’s going to take more than just being a commissionaire," said Jim Girden, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
The report is calling for six special constables to ride troublesome routes, and it recommends the officers have the power to hand out tickets and ban riders.
Transit rider Jackson Mugerwa wants to see the recommendations put into place.
"I think it’s a good idea. Sometimes my heart goes out to the bus drivers who take some of the really undeserved abuse from passengers," he said.
But city councillor Dan Vandal said putting those recommendations into practice will cost the city money.
"There are several transit items in the budget process. They’re all wanting money, funding. If the funding is available for this, then we will put the bylaw together," said Vandal.
But Bahry is just glad someone’s finally talking about it.
"We’re going in the right direction. It’s a start — at least something’s happening," said Bahry.
Vandal said the recommendations will be discussed in the 2014 budget process.