October 23, 2020

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Portage Place manager wants crime-magnet bus shelter demolished, replaced

 The bus stop shelter at Portage Place in Winnipeg on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Winnipeg police often have to respond to incidents at this location in the city.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The bus stop shelter at Portage Place in Winnipeg on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Winnipeg police often have to respond to incidents at this location in the city.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/5/2018 (897 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A notorious bus shelter is going to meet the wrecking ball this summer if Portage Place management has its way.

Dave Stone, the mall's general manager, said the bus shelter outside the mall's front doors has seen better days in its 30-plus years.

Stone said he's been trying to get rid of the bus shack for the last five or six years and hopes it will be demolished and replaced by a new, glass-walled structure, similar to other bus stops downtown.

The shelter was singled out by police Chief Danny Smyth at a downtown safety summit Tuesday; police are frequently summoned for assistance there.

A teen was badly injured inside the shelter in a January beating captured on surveillance video.

"There is the safety and security issue that’s been there for as long as anybody can recall," Stone said Wednesday, pointing out its design flaws.

"Because the bus shelter juts out into the sidewalk and then there’s the transit post there to tell you when the next bus is coming, it gets really, really congested in there as well," he said. "So there’s all those different little factors that are out there for the bus shelter removal for sure. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a number of years, it’s just taken this long to get there."

Shawn Matthews, director of safety and outreach for the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, said the Portage Place shelter is one of the top five locations where members of the Downtown Watch street patrol team attend calls.

Smyth said it has long been a problem.

"It's a hotspot for criminal activity," he said in a statement. "We support any action that would result in the reduction of criminal activity at the site as it has become difficult to manage for security staff, as well as our frontline officers."

People waiting for buses at Portage Place Wednesday agreed.

Tiffany Harper-Cook said she goes out of her way to avoid downtown, including the Portage Place stop, because it attracts trouble.

"If there’s lots of people around, I feel a little bit safer. In the nighttime too, I try and go to the busiest bus stops," she said, adding there is usually more security at the stop outside Bell MTS Place.

But she didn't offer any ideas for safety improvements to the Portage Place shelter.

"It’s hard to say because lots of the commotion comes from Portage Place, things happening at Portage Place," she said. "People and trouble."

Two young men, Daniel Fraser and Ashton Stone, said they had been robbed once at the bus stop and nearly robbed there on another occasion.

"I was sitting there waiting for my bus and then three guys walked up... and they stole my Bluetooth speaker," Fraser said.

"I got robbed for my chain. A guy pulled a knife on me," Stone said, adding he was able to get the chain back.

Stone suggested making the shelter accessible only to people with Peggo cards they could swipe to gain entry.

Shishay Kelaty said she waits at the Portage Place stop every day and has never seen anything bad happen. She would, however, like to see the shelter redesigned with open windows or better ventilation to improve air flow.

"It’s closed, so it smells a little bit. When it’s closed, it needs fresh air," Kelaty said.

The city's transit department said it is working on a solution with partners at the Downtown BIZ, Portage Place, in the Winnipeg Police Service and other city departments.

"The safety and security of our passengers, operators and the residents of Winnipeg is of the utmost importance to Winnipeg Transit," a spokesman said.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary encouraged anyone who has issues with the stop to approach the union to try to get them resolved.

"We're equally concerned with the safety of passengers, in the same vein as our operators. We believe that a dedicated transit security team could assist in instances like this," he said in an email.

"It is unfortunate that the City of Winnipeg and the Transit Advisory Committee has not moved forward on this issue, even with dedicated funding available. We're hopeful that the new chair of the Transit Advisory Committee, Matt Allard, will take steps to move forward on this file."

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

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