Murray unveils extensive plan to increase safety on city buses


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Glen Murray is promising to enact an extensive plan to make Winnipeg Transit buses safer during his first term of office if he’s elected mayor in October.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/08/2022 (227 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Glen Murray is promising to enact an extensive plan to make Winnipeg Transit buses safer during his first term of office if he’s elected mayor in October.

“These are not new issues.… Over the last decade, our buses have become more dangerous,” Murray said during a Thursday media event. “The public and, particularly, our operators on the bus, (are in) increasingly unacceptable and untenable situations.”

Transit safety has long been a concern for the union that represents Winnipeg bus drivers. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 said there have been 90 assaults against drivers in 2022 (as of Aug. 11), following 92 attacks throughout 2021.

Murray, Winnipeg’s mayor from 1998-2004, promised to pursue a 10-point plan to address the issue: “rapidly” replacing Transit’s radio communication system (which suffers from dead zones); providing larger protective shields for bus drivers; training safety teams of staff and/or community members to help resolve conflicts on buses; devoting more police officers to “walk the beat” to help speed up response times (and work with non-profit crisis intervention teams); ensure streaming video monitoring is expanded to all buses; adding more flip-up bus seats to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers; creating teams to wake up/check on folks sleeping in bus shelters and clean the sites each morning; completing a safety audit of transit stations and stops; and creating a competition to attract new bus-shelter designs.

He would also encourage bus operators to call 911 when faced with an emergency, something he said drivers can be punished for doing now, since they’re expected to call the Winnipeg Transit Control Centre instead.

“There’s only one group of people that I can think of in the city that aren’t allowed to call 911 when their lives are threatened, or when there’s a fight that’s broken out… and those are our transit operators,” Murray said.

James Van Gerwen, ATU 1505’s executive vice-president, said the union supports Murray’s pledges, although the plan doesn’t include a dedicated transit security force with the power to detain unruly passengers, something the union has advocated for in the past.

“I still think that there needs to be some kind of (security) presence on the bus. But (this) plan is to have, at least, the police in the area and actually have the ability to contact 911 and the proper services that we need,” Van Gerwen said.

“It’s a step in the right direction.”

Murray said a bus security force could be considered in the future, adding more consultation would be required to determine how community groups could support the changes.

Since council is not permitted to direct police operations, he acknowledged he could not order police to ensure more officers walk a beat. Murray said he would advocate to change provincial legislation to provide council more authority over safety matters.

“Absolutely, I want the laws changed, they’re not working,” he said.

Murray said he can’t yet estimate the full cost of his plan, since he is waiting on more financial information from city officials.

In a written statement, Winnipeg Transit spokeswoman Megan Benedictson confirmed drivers are instructed to use their bus radios to contact Transit’s control centre during an emergency, which immediately dispatches a Transit inspector and can “very quickly triage the call to the appropriate responders (police, fire, paramedic).”

However she said drivers who are away from their radios during an emergency are “absolutely encouraged” to use their personal cellphones to call 911.

She stressed Winnipeg Transit has made safety a top priority.

“Since 2017, the city has made a $9.6-million investment in transit safety initiatives, which have either been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. Additionally, a capital project valued at $17.3 million for the replacement of all existing bus radio hardware and related equipment/technology has been approved… as part of (a recent tri-government funding deal),” she wrote.

Transit’s investments have added more inspectors, more driver training, partial driver-safety shields, audio-video surveillance and emergency signals that can be used to ask those outside a bus to call 911.

Meanwhile, a well-known crime-prevention advocate is now backing Murray’s mayoral bid. In a press release, Sel Burrows, who founded the Point Douglas community watch program known as the Point Powerline, said he believes Murray can help mobilize inner-city resident committees to help make communities safer.

Murray is one of 14 candidates running for mayor in the Oct. 26 election. Jenny Motkaluk, Don Woodstock, Chris Clacio, Scott Gillingham, Rick Shone, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Shaun Loney, Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Desmond Thomas, Jessica Peebles, Kevin Klein and Govind Thawani have also registered.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga


Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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