A man who witnessed a violent attack on a Winnipeg Transit driver last month says there should be harsher penalties for people caught assaulting bus drivers.

Kelvin Johnston says the man who boarded a transit bus behind him on Sept. 14 demanded a transfer without paying the required fare.

When the 50-year-old male bus driver refused to provide the transfer, the young man started punching him multiple times and kicking him.

"Next thing I know, the guy starts pounding on the bus driver," Johnston told CBC News on Wednesday.

"The bus driver was doing everything he can to defend himself, but the guy was still beating on him."

Winnipeg police released video footage of the assault earlier this week, in the hopes the public can identify the suspect.

Police announced on Thursday that they have arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with the bus assault. He is currently in custody and charges against him are pending.

Assaults becoming common, says union

The union representing Winnipeg Transit drivers says while the Sept. 14 case is extreme, assault is becoming part of the job.

"A lot of it is being spat on, [being] called filthy names, being threatened and what have you," said James Girden, president of Local 1505 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Transit unions estimate there are more than 2,000 attacks on drivers in Canada each year.

There are currently private members' bills proposed by the federal Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats to create tougher penalties for people who assault transit drivers.

"Bus drivers have to put up with everybody's B-S everyday," said Johnston.

"I think that penalties should be stiffer for a bus driver getting assaulted by a lone pedestrian."