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City, union eye Transit driver shield extensions

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Winnipeg Transit’s union and city council will look at enhancing onboard safety shields in the wake of recent violence on buses.

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Winnipeg Transit’s union and city council will look at enhancing onboard safety shields in the wake of recent violence on buses.

A working group including Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 and other city services will meet this month to discuss extending the shields currently in place, as some bus operators have reported attackers getting around the barriers in attempts to harm them.

It will decide what options are available and what they will cost before bringing the information to council, who will then order samples and place them on three or four buses to be kept in a Transit garage, where operators can test them out and give feedback.

Some bus operators have reported attackers getting around the barriers currently installed on city buses. (Sasha Sefter / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Using the samples for a pilot project will get it moving faster so a decision doesn’t take months or years to make, said Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West), chairwoman of the transit advisory committee.

“We want to accelerate this, because the bus drivers want it a faster way,” she said Monday.

The idea is an accelerated version of the pilot project when shields were first installed on Transit buses in 2019 when the barriers were put on a number of buses throughout the system for operators to use. The process was slow moving, Lukes said, and she heard concerns from operators who weren’t able to try them.

“I really want to see participation from the drivers to test these out, to give feedback. My understanding is last time there wasn’t great participation, and there was maybe some grumbling on the version that was selected,” she said.

ATU 1505 has called for extended shields in the past.

It is too early to determine the potential cost or timeline for the pilot project, Lukes said, noting the samples will be purchased out of the city’s existing Transit budget.

“There will be a cost, but you know what? That’s the cost of doing business,” she said. “Transit is a top priority. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars on Transit, we need people to take it. But if people don’t feel safe, they’re not going to take it.”

ATU 1505 president Chris Scott met last week with Mayor Scott Gillingham to discuss improving safety for Transit drivers and passengers.

Scott said he plans to continue the push to extend driver safety shields, but called it a small part of a larger overhaul that’s desperately needed.

“That’s also another step in the process. The last thing we want is to deflect the danger from us onto the passengers because that will just drive away more passengers, and without them, we’re out of business,” he said.

The assault of a father and his 10-year-old son while riding a bus last week has only inspired more urgency, the union leader said.

“If you want the long-term improvement of the service to happen, things need to start happening now and continue on to bring people back.”

— with files from Joyanne Pursaga

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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