November 18, 2018

Winnipeg
-11° C, Light snow

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Safety a growing concern for Winnipeg bus riders at night

Laura Genaille doesn't worry about taking a bus during the day, but she's not willing to risk it after dark.

"I don't find it would be too safe riding on a bus by myself at night," Genaille said while waiting in the cold Wednesday afternoon along the Graham Avenue transit corridor. "Not when the sun has gone down."

Every weekday in Winnipeg, thousands of people rely on Winnipeg's transit system to get them where they need to go. The city's 623-bus fleet travels more than 29 million kilometres each year, stopping at 5,170 locations.

But violent incidents are occurring with greater frequency and many riders are boarding the bus with growing apprehension.

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Laura Genaille doesn't worry about taking a bus during the day, but she's not willing to risk it after dark.

"I don't find it would be too safe riding on a bus by myself at night," Genaille said while waiting in the cold Wednesday afternoon along the Graham Avenue transit corridor. "Not when the sun has gone down."

Jonathan Meikle, left, and Matthew Shorting intervened in a bus attack Sunday when they were riding the 170 bus on Main St. at St Mary. The friends say they intervened when another indigenous man made racial slurs against a black passenger. Meikle was stabbed in the leg when the man pulled a knife. The two, both members of the Bear Clan, held the man until police arrived.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jonathan Meikle, left, and Matthew Shorting intervened in a bus attack Sunday when they were riding the 170 bus on Main St. at St Mary. The friends say they intervened when another indigenous man made racial slurs against a black passenger. Meikle was stabbed in the leg when the man pulled a knife. The two, both members of the Bear Clan, held the man until police arrived.

Every weekday in Winnipeg, thousands of people rely on Winnipeg's transit system to get them where they need to go. The city's 623-bus fleet travels more than 29 million kilometres each year, stopping at 5,170 locations.

But violent incidents are occurring with greater frequency and many riders are boarding the bus with growing apprehension.

Last Sunday, a man who intervened after a passenger hurled racial slurs at another rider was stabbed in the leg.

A woman waiting in a bus shelter outside the North Point Douglas Manor on Main Street Wednesday said she rarely uses transit unless she is with a friend or co-worker.

"I don't like to take the bus when I'm alone," said Ruth, who did not want her last name published. "I don't feel safe.

"If I take the bus alone, it is only in my neighbourhood to go shopping at Kildonan Place. And I don't use it at night; my husband comes to pick me up. But I know it can be unsafe anytime, anywhere."

Waiting in another corner of the frigid shelter, Tony Henderson said he uses Winnipeg Transit every day, despite having been the target of an attack.

"I got jumped on the 38," he said. "I was punched, but nothing happened. I had my arms up to protect myself. I'm from the North End, I know how to defend myself.

"He hit me 10 times. But I'm not scared to go on the bus. I'm more concerned about the fare increases. Twenty cents more is a large increase when you are on a fixed income."

'I got jumped on the 38, I was punched, but nothing happened. I had my arms up to protect myself. I'm from the North End, I know how to defend myself' – Tony Henderson on being attacked while riding a city transit bus

A recent Free Press story, using data obtained from the city that tracked transit violence over several years, reported that highest number of assaults occurs on the Route 16 bus. On that route Wednesday, heading west on Selkirk Avenue, a female passenger said she doesn't ride at night.

"The few times I have, it was good," she said, declining to give her name. "But the odd time something happens. It happens."

Another passenger on route 16 said he doesn't get bothered.

"I'm a big boy," he said. "I've never seen anything happen, but the cameras, when they are working, do nothing. It's just like the Wi-Fi — sometimes they don't work and other times the driver doesn't turn it on... they should just beef up security."

Even an off-duty driver, sitting at the back of the bus, admitted, "I don't think it's safe."

"I try to focus on driving when I'm driving the bus," he said, and made reference to the February 2017 stabbing death of a driver finishing his route on the University of Manitoba campus.

"Half the time I'm not even looking at the mirror to see what's going on... there's bad people everywhere."

Aleen Chaudhary, president of Local 1505 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said the union continues to ask for Winnipeg Transit to beef up security.

"As a bus driver, it changes the whole atmosphere after it is dark," Chaudhary said, adding young drivers often request daytime routes but are usually out of luck because of their lack of seniority and are assigned riskier evening and weekend shifts.

"It's a different clientele altogether... people should feel secure whether they are a driver or passenger. The city has to provide a safe workplace."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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