Barriers around bus drivers, private transit cops could be legacy of Jubal Fraser killing
Transit safety report recommends modest steps this year, more in 2018 if council approves funds
Winnipeg Transit wants to test out barriers around drivers, expand its video surveillance system and hire a small private security force to better protect its staff and customers.
A transit safety report published by the city Friday morning describes four measures the city could take this year to improve transit safety and four others that could be implemented in 2018 if council approves the funds.
The report was triggered by the February killing of driver Irvine Jubal Fraser and subsequent calls by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 for improved worker safety.
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The report says this year, transit could test out safety barriers, launch a program to encourage customers to report safety problems, improve reporting of incidents to police and create a transit advisory committee to review how the service operates.
Next year, the city could spend up to $710,000 to hire five full-time security staff, create new positions called "point duty officers," expand its surveillance system and hire one more instructor to train drivers to defuse conflict along with three drivers to allow the training to happen.
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The safety barrier pilot project would see the devices installed on six buses this year. The report comes before council's public works committee on Tuesday.
Public works chair Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge) said a lot of time and effort went into the report, which he called "a very reasonable and balanced approach" to deal with transit safety.
John Callahan, president of the the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, said he is pleased with the report and singled out the creation of the transit advisory committee as a means of ensuring transit workers have a voice in operations.
Callahan said although bus drivers rejected the idea of safety shields in the past, a majority of them support the idea of barriers now, "depending on the type of shield it is."
He also said he would still like to see a transit police force created in the long term and repeated his desire to free bus drivers from the responsibility of enforcing the collection of fares.
"Fare collection needs to be removed from the hands of the operators, like all other major cities do," he said.
Both Callahan and Morantz said they are concerned the provincial government has introduced legislation that would end Manitoba's commitment to cover half the cost of operating Winnipeg Transit.
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Morantz said he isn't sure how that will affect plans to introduce new safety measures or other aspects of Winnipeg Transit's operations. He mused the city may have to increase bus fares or raise property taxes.
"The 50-50 transit-sharing agreement is a game changer, in terms of how we'll have to examine our transit budgets, there's no question. Will it affect the service we provide? Will we have to provide more mill rate support? Will we have to look at fares? All of those decisions will be made, really, as a result of this long-standing arrangement being altered," Morantz said.