Edmonton bus driver safety shield project to cost $11.7M

The city’s executive committee has approved agreements with two contractors that will provide an $11.7 million upgrade to Edmonton busses, including the installation of safety shields for drivers.

City approves agreements with two contractors to provide upgrades

A Mississauga transit driver showing a barrier to protect bus drivers from being assaulted by passengers. Safety shields could be installed on Edmonton buses as early as January. (CBC News)

Edmonton buses could have new driver safety features installed as early as January.

The city's executive committee approved agreements on Tuesday with two contractors that will provide an $11.7 million upgrade to Edmonton buses, including the installation of safety shields for drivers.

A new city report says Vapor Bus International will install shields on all city buses in an effort to improve transit operator safety — a hot topic since late September, when a bus driver was stabbed at the Mill Woods Transit Centre.

Shield installation will cost $6.95 million, pending capital budget approval. Mississauga Bus Group of Companies will provide an additional $4.75 million in heating and air conditioning upgrades for the enclosed workspaces.

Mark Tetterington, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, hopes to see driver shields on buses by January, as the manufacturer will work on an expedited timeline.

The goal of installing the shields is to keep Edmonton bus drivers safe from violent passengers. (CBC)

The shields are a crucial part of transit safety upgrades, which include new security guards, he said.

"That's number one for us," he said. "To me, that's more important than even the security presence because those retractable shields are just like a powered window in a car."

The shields will enclose the space where bus drivers sit, reaching from the floor to about 12 inches below the ceiling, Tetterington said. They're made of tempered glass, and have a retractable window that rolls up in about three seconds.

"You can just raise it and lower it. As you feel threatened, you can just raise it up so there's no longer a threat," Tetterington said.

"We're going to try to encourage operators that when they're using them, you know, 'Don't raise them up unless you feel like you're threatened.'"

The shields will first be installed on 159 buses with air conditioning, followed by the rest of the fleet, which will require upgrades to regulate the temperature within the closed operators' spaces.