Edmonton

ETS starts 'zero tolerance' campaign to curb sexual harassment

Edmonton Transit rolled out the first part of a new campaign Tuesday designed to make riders, especially women, feel safer on buses and LRT cars.

'This is really marking our line in the sand, so to speak, to say enough is enough,' councillor says

One of four new posters unveiled by ETS on Tuesday as part of a "zero-tolerance" campaign aimed at stopping sexual harassment on buses and trains. (Supplied)

Edmonton Transit rolled out the first part of a new campaign Tuesday designed to make riders, especially women, feel safer on buses and LRT cars.

The campaign is called Safe Ride, and the first component calls for "zero-tolerance" for sexual harassment on the city's transit system.

"This is really marking our line in the sand, so to speak, to say enough is enough," said Coun. Bev Esslinger, who helped launch the campaign in an underground LRT station.
Coun. Bev Esslinger was on hand Tuesday to help launch the new safety campaign for Edmonton Transit. (CBC)

It was Esslinger who brought the issue before council this spring, after she said she'd heard too many stories from women who don't feel safe riding buses or the train.

As part of the new campaign, posters and advertisements list examples of inappropriate behaviour and tell people how to report them. ETS said it has trained its employees on how to identify and respond to such inappropriate behaviour and has replaced passenger assistance decals on all 94 LRT cars to ensure consistent "branding and language."

"This is about not tolerating inappropriate behaviour and making sure that people know they're safe on Edmonton transit," said Dorian Wandzura, the city's transportation manager.

Esslinger hopped aboard an LRT car Tuesday to demonstrate how the passenger alarm system works.

As the train left the station, she pushed the yellow PRESS FOR HELP button above the window.

Five seconds later, the reply came: "Passenger alarm activated. Do you need assistance?"

"Yes, I do," Esslinger said, acting out a mock scenario. "I just saw a gentleman. He was trying to sneak a picture of one of the girls. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do."

"How can I assist you?" the driver asked.

Twenty-five seconds passed, then the driver posed another question: "Is this person still on the train?"

Esslinger confirmed the make-believe man was still aboard, described him and outlined where he was sitting.

"Very good," the driver said, "I'll have transit peace officers standing by at the next station. I'm going to get you to monitor the inside of the train."

LRT rider Paula Dean said she feels safe riding transit during business hours.

"But later at night, not so much."

ETS said it consulted with riders and non-riders, including students and seniors and people from cultural and gender groups, as well as sexual minorities.

There were 12 sexual assaults on reported on Edmonton Transit last year.
One of four new posters unveiled by ETS on Tuesday as part of a "zero-tolerance" campaign aimed at stopping sexual harassment on buses and trains. (Supplied)

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