Report recommends $21.4M in safety and security upgrades to Edmonton Transit

A report on transit safety and security recommends the City of Edmonton consider spending $21.42 million over the next five years to improve the safety of drivers and the public.

Councillors will discuss report Tuesday

A report recommends the city accelerates the installation of retractable bus shields to better protect drivers. (Hugo Levesque/CBC)

A new report on transit safety and security recommends the City of Edmonton consider spending $21.42 million over the next five years to improve the safety of drivers and the public.

The report recommends accelerating the installation of safety shields on buses, hiring more staff, 24/7 security staffing at certain transit and LRT stations and more training for drivers.

City council discussed the report Tuesday at a council meeting. 

"We're seeing some behaviour out there that is deeply concerning," Mayor Don Iveson said Tuesday morning.

"Heaven forbid people start to feel like it's not safe and stop using it."

While there have been 2,072 transit-related incidents reported to Edmonton police this year with 230 resulting in criminal investigations, two serious incidents last month spawned the report.

On Sept. 18, a student was stabbed while waiting for a train at the South Campus LRT station.  On Sept. 26, a bus driver was stabbed at the Mill Woods Transit Centre.

Following the incidents, city administration met with various agencies, including police and the transit drivers' union, to prioritize recommendations, the report says.

Mark Tetterington, president of Edmonton's Amalgamated Transit Union, is relieved the city plans to speed up security measures.

"There's a lot of fear out there right now," he told the council meeting. "They [drivers] have been asking for shields probably for the past two years." 

Installing retractable bus shields will cost $10.27 million, the most expensive of the recommendations. 

The report recommends the shields be installed first in the 159 buses with air conditioning, since the 630 older buses will need to have their heating and ventilation systems upgraded first.

The report also suggests providing 24/7 "highly visible" security, at a cost of $6.87 million, at 26 transit stations that have had a significant number of incidents in the last five years.

It also recommends hiring 24 more full-time ETS inspectors and support staff. Most cities have one on-street inspector for every 100 to 125 buses while ETS has one for every 262 buses.

Coun. Tony Catarina said the beefed up patrols will encourage more people to take public transit.

"This is going to go a long way in increasing that ridership," he said. "This has been a long-standing issue for transit, for the city and especially for the old Capital Line."

He said the patrols will help address safety concerns at two stations in his ward — Coliseum and Stadium.

"Improving the ratio and coverage will improve response times and operator support in case of service disruptions and emergency situations," the report says.

The document also recommends ETS accelerate the hiring of transit peace officers for the new Valley Line LRT, which opens in 2020.

With files from Natasha Riebe