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This article was published 24/11/2017 (1041 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
City hall has unveiled one of two models of the driver security shields that will be installed on transit buses for a six-month pilot program.
At a news conference at the Brandon Street transit garage Friday, acting transit director Greg Ewankiw was joined by Mayor Brian Bowman and Coun. Marty Morantz, chairman of the public works committee, where the first of six shields has been installed.
"Over a course of a minimum of six months, we will be analyzing these shields and collecting feedback from operators on their effectiveness," Ewankiw said, adding the shields are being analyzed jointly by transit management and the new transit advisory committee.
The shields and the creation of the committee were two safety initiatives for drivers and riders that have been implemented since the brutal attack and killing of transit driver Jubal Fraser in the early hours of Feb. 14.
Missing from the Friday event was union president Aleem Chaudhary, who was scheduled to appear but officials were unable to explain his absence.
When contacted by the Free Press later, Chaudhary said he didn’t participate because he objected to the event being turned into a "photo op," adding the union is concerned with the pace of progress on implementing safety measures.
"One out of 637 buses to get a shield after nine months, we don’t think is a huge deal," said Chaudhary, president of ATU Local 1505, adding Transit wanted to delay installing the shield for another month while the union pressed for it last week.
Other safety-related measures transit has implemented in the fallout of Fraser’s death include a public education awareness campaign and added an additional inspector in evenings to respond to driver and rider issues.
Other safety measures planned for next year include a $700,000 budget for five additional full-time transit security staff; four new duty inspectors to assist drivers and passengers; adding one additional instructor to providing ongoing training for drivers to prevent and diffuse conflict situations; installing an additional exterior surveillance camera on buses.
"There is no one thing that is going to stop assaults or stop bad behaviour on a bus," Ewankiw said. "It’s a combination of things that needs to take place."
The two shield models in the pilot program were chosen following a formal request for proposal. The shield on display was made by local bus manufacturer New Flyer Industries. A second model, made by Wisconsin-based Arow Global Corp, will be installed within a month.
Ewankiw said the cost to purchase and install each shield is estimated to be about $5,000, adding no decision has yet been taken whether they will be placed on all 637 buses on the Transit fleet.
The transit advisory committee will evaluate the shields, Ewankiw said, and make recommendations to the public works committee and ultimately council.
The New Flyer shield has a modified L-shape and does not entirely enclose the driver seating area. Ewankiw said the design was deliberate, adding the heating and air conditioning functions of the transit buses are not designed for an enclosed driver area within the vehicle.
In addition, Ewankiw said the L-shape design ensures the vision of drivers won’t be obscured when looking into the right-side, exterior mirror.