Video of passenger spitting on driver highlights 'tough' conditions for bus operators, union says
Driver was unharmed but understandably 'shaken up,' police say
UPDATE — Oct. 31. 2019: Transit Police say a suspect has been identified and arrested in connection to the spitting and kicking incident aboard a TransLink bus. More here.
A video of a bus passenger kicking his heel into the vehicle's front doors before spitting on the driver highlights working conditions Metro Vancouver bus operators face all too often, according to the employees' union.
The incident in Burnaby, B.C., happened less than 24 hours after transit operators in the region issued strike notice over wages and work environment.
Transit Police said the confrontation began when the passenger boarded the bus around 4:15 p.m. PT on Tuesday and kept standing at the very front of the bus. The driver asked the man to step back, but he continually came forward to cross a red line passengers are meant to stay behind, police added.
Eventually, the bus driver pulled over in the area of Hardwick Street and Canada Way and asked the passenger to leave. The man repeatedly kicked the front doors of the bus before they opened, then turned and spat on the driver's hair before disembarking.
A seven-second video of the incident posted on Facebook shows a passenger, dressed in a blue long-sleeved shirt with short, buzz-cut hair, kicking the door three times. Other passengers can be heard gasping after the man spits on the driver.
Watch the video below:
Transit Police verified the video Wednesday morning.
Sgt. Clint Hampton said officers responded and searched for the suspect, but he hasn't been found. The driver did not need medical attention but Hampton said the operator was understandably upset.
"You can imagine something like this, it's going to shake anybody up ... no one deserves to come to work and be assaulted," Hampton said.
Hampton said assaults such as the one in the video aren't common, but not unheard of either.
Transit operators in Metro Vancouver served 72-hour strike notice Monday, potentially leaving most of the region without bus, SeaBus or community shuttle service as early as Friday.
Unifor says Coast Mountain Bus Company, which operates bus services on behalf of TransLink, has failed to address workers' concerns about wages, benefits and working conditions.
"Regrettably, these types of incidents are too common," Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said of the spitting incident.
"It's not news to the union and it's not news to the company, but it does highlight the tough working conditions our union [members] face out there," McGarrigle told reporters Wednesday.
More than 5,000 members of Unifor Locals 111 and 2200, representing bus drivers, SeaBus and maintenance staff, voted 99 per cent in favour of job action earlier this month.
Hampton said Transit Police are still investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call police.
Anyone who sees anything inappropriate happening on public transit can reach Transit Police by phone or by texting 87-77-77.