Bus drivers deserve better protection from thugs

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Attacks on bus drivers can also have serious consequences for innocent pedestrians and drivers

As a daily transit user in Metro Vancouver, there are many times when I get frustrated with TransLink bus drivers. Often they leave a couple of minutes earlier than posted times and I miss my bus, or they are simply plain rude. That said, there has never been a single circumstance whereby I think their actions warranted a violent reaction. Unfortunately, that view is not universally shared and bus drivers are often treated like punching bags. In fact, in 2009 there were 150 assaults on local transit operators in Metro Vancouver.

On Boxing Day another thug beat up on a bus driver in Metro Vancouver. Luckily for the bus driver, they were not seriously injured - at least physically. It would appear some thugs (both sober and drunk) still think it's cool or acceptable to beat up on bus drivers.

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) has been regularly calling for stiffer penalties for those individuals who choose to attack bus drivers. Unlike other public servants such paramedics and police officers, they are not offered special protection under the Criminal Code of Canada. Punch out a cop and you face some serious penalties including jail time. Punch out a bus driver behind the wheel of a 20 ton vehicle filled with innocent passengers and you face a slap on the wrist.

In 2007 NDP MP Peter Julien asked Parliament to change the Code to include stiffer penalties for physical attacks on bus drivers. His motion (see below) does not appear to have gone anywhere:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should extend to Bus Drivers and Transit Operators, the same protections under the Criminal Code afforded to Police, and Ambulance Personnel, who are assaulted while performing their duties, by establishing stiff penalties for anyone who assaults a Bus Driver or A Transit Operator.

A frustrated CAW Local 111 President Don MacLeod reacted to the most recent attack on a TransLink driver by telling CKNW news;

They maybe get some community work, they might get a no-go transit but because of privacy issues nobody can identify who they are. It's time for the law to step up and give the Courts the ability to have stiffer penalties.

There are those that believe singling out bus drivers as opposed to nurses or other public sector employees is going too far. They claim that attacks on nurses happen far more frequently than attacks on bus drivers. This may well be true, however, nurses aren't driving large vehicles in busy traffic with 100 passengers while under attack. What is unique about violent attacks on bus drivers is they can impact everyone around them including innocent pedestrians and drivers.

I agree with the CAW on this one and think the time has come for Canada's big city mayors to call upon Parliament to make driving buses safer for everyone.

Bus drivers perform a very valuable service for the millions of urban dwellers who use transit on a weekly basis. We rely upon their safety and security to get us home to our loved ones every night. Therefore, ensuring we have the proper laws to protect them from serious injury should be a high priority. Let's hope that 2010 brings some serious time for the serious crime of attacking our bus drivers.

Let us know what you think by voting on our online poll on this subject.

- Post by Daniel




Thanks Daniel and Mike for posting this item. I have been working with the CAW 111 on this issue for several years - they are clients - and it is enormously frustrating how few of these terrible assaults result in charges, let alone convictions.

Something has to be done and tougher sentences is one significant step.

Your readers will also be appalled to know that in Edmonton a man faces attempted murder charges for severely beating a bus driver earlier this month - the driver remains in serious condition in hospital.

There is an epidemic of assaults on drivers in every city - it has to be stopped.

Thanks again for your support and please encourage your readers to contact their MP to support BC MP Peter Julian's private members bill.

Hi Guys,

TransLink stands foursquare behind the CAW's call for tougher penalties for those who think they can use transit workers for punching bags.

I second Bill's call to all readers to ask their MP's to ensure this issue makes its way onto the parliamentary agenda as soon as possible.

Below, the media release that was sent out from the office today.

Judy Rudin/Media Relations, TransLink
December 30, 2009

TransLink, Coast Mountain Bus and SkyTrain support stiffer penalties for transit worker assaults.

TransLink and its transit operating companies are ‘100 per cent behind’ the Canadian Auto Workers Union’s call for tougher sentences for those convicted of assaulting transit workers.

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis, Denis Clements of the Coast Mountain Bus Company and Doug Kelsey, CEO of the BC Rapid Transit Company, which oversees SkyTrain and the West Coast Express have all joined CAW Local 111 President Don MacLeod in a bid to raise the awareness of the danger to transit workers and the public from attacks on bus operators and SkyTrain Attendants. CMBC reports 145 assaults on bus drivers so far in 2009 and SkyTrain says 12 of its staff have been assaulted. The incidents range from spitting to serious injuries that have kept some workers off the job for months.

“Unless something changes and we toughen things up, it’s only a matter of time before someone assaults a driver on a moving bus and we end up with serious injuries or deaths. The consequences of an out-of-control 30-ton vehicle with over 100 people aboard on a busy street are potentially horrific,” Clements says.

“It’s the same situation on SkyTrain,” Kelsey adds. “It’s totally unacceptable that workers have to face this kind of threat, especially when they’re trying to keep the public safe around moving trains.”

BCTRC and Coast Mountain have joined with the Transit Police, Transit Security and representatives from the CAW and CUPE 7000, which represents SkyTrain Attendants, to form the Assaults Prevention Committee, which works to develop and assess a variety of strategies to help staff avoid or prevent confrontations that lead to assaults and consults the companies on measures to protect staff and allow them to summon assistance quickly if needed.

A new radio system on all transit buses in the region not only features a ‘panic button’ that an operator can use to call for help, it also allows Transit Control to pinpoint the exact location of the bus via the GPS system on every vehicle. Coast Mountain is also proceeding with the installation of video cameras on the bus fleet, and CEO Denis Clements said footage captured has already helped the police identify suspects in a number of incidents.

Clements said the issue of shields around the driver’s area is still being examined to determine the best design. “Shields can be a good way to keep an operator from harm, but many of our drivers don’t want them to get in the way of having the kind of interaction that they enjoy with the vast majority of their passengers,” he said.

Due to his involvement in national commuter rail policy issues, CEO Doug Kelsey at BCRTC has already taken the opportunity to consult federal and provincial officials on the issue of assaults on transit workers and the need for laws that could treat such offences with the same severity as assaults on airline workers. “We’ve worked with other commuter rail operators to get the issue on the federal government’s radar screen and we hope to keep pushing the issue forward,” Kelsey said.

CEO Ian Jarvis said TransLink has made it a priority to fund improved radio and video systems on the buses and SkyTrain to promote safety, security and customer service. TransLink has also ensured that the Transit Police has had the budget they need for additional officers and systems, and with the support of the federal and provincial governments, there will be fare gates on SkyTrain within the next three years.

“Money, systems and security staff can only do so much when it comes to protecting our people and the public from the kind of anti-social behaviour we’ve witnessed far too often,” Jarvis said.

“We’re tremendously grateful for the public’s help when transit passengers or passers-by have come to the aid of a transit worker being assaulted, such as we saw just last Saturday on the Knight Street bus. With the right back-up from our courts we can send a clear message that such actions won’t be tolerated and that those responsible for them will face clear cut and severe consequences,” he said.

Thanks Bill/Judy for your comments and encouraging our readers to contact their local member of parliament. Let's hope the Code is changed before something more serious happens to one of our bus drivers. Keep up the great work helping to raise the profile of this important issue.

The cause is certainly worthy of our support, but so long as the Liberals and NDP hold the balance of power in Ottawa the desired changes in to the criminal code will get short shrift. The Prime Minister has been trying to get simple changes thru for two years now and gets blocked by the opposition. Shame on them

I agree with the above - but not to be negative it should be the caw supporting translink mgmt...
And onthe tougher sentences - unless there are convictions it wont make much difference- the problem is so many of the ppl in this on the street lifestyle are mentally ill, or drug addicted, and should be in care facilities or treatment programs...but definetely we should all be able to go to work and come home safe...and find a solution without politicizing the issues....I still cant believe there is no security on the Canada line (not part of translink) but with the Olympics coming can you hava bigger target and a more nieve society than ours to think there wont be some potential dangers...cant beleive there is no plan to screen or check the potential suitcase size bags that willbe brought onto the trains...i actually asked a representative this question and unless they have chnaged this is the reality...go figure..

In Victoria, after assaulting drivers and receiving a slap on the wrist (usually probation) from the legal system, BC Transit often imposes a riding ban on the assailant ranging from several weeks to a few months.

Now that's 'support', I tell ya.

Stiffer penalties are certainly in order but will not stem the tide of bad behaviors if the operators are not properly trained in customer service. The article gives a tacit nod to the fact that some of these operators leave their time points early or are just rude. When you encounter hundreds of customers per day you are bound to come across a few who will not tolerate this type of service and have nothing to lose by assaulting an operator. When they enter the bus, the driver has no idea what that person has encountered up to that point and maybe, just maybe, this person needs just one more thing to make them snap. Throw a rude or seemingly disinterested driver into his day and that might be the spark that lights the fuse.

It is absolutely critical that bus operators have the ability to empathize with passengers and show a genuine interest in their bus experience. This isn't just good service, it's survival. Training on how to de-escalate confrontations is lacking and it's really too bad, because bus drivers, more than most, are faced with opportunities to de-escalate confrontations every day.

In summary, stiff penalties for assaulting bus operators are good, but better training in customer service and customer conflict will do more.

I ride the bus in the Winter and all I can say is that bus drivers are rude. They have no manors. If I thank them for the ticket they just stare blankly at me like I said nothing at all. Makes me want to spit in their face.

Bus drivers often do not stop or pick up people if they are not on schedule. Not my problem if the bus driver is late, but it is my problem if they dont pick me up and I have to wait until the next bus.

I think that Translink management should take a ride on the system starting from Langley to North Vancouver and see how fun it is to deal with rude bus drivers, skytrain personal and other amazing people that they employee. I bet then they would be singing a different tune. I bet the idiots at Translink drive and never take the transit system.

I am sorry, but bus drivers do need an attitude adjustment and I am more then happy to give them one if need be. I wont use violence but I sure will put them in their place verbally. I will not put up with rude bus drivers when I pay their salary with taxes and fares.

Translink needs to get with it and fire rude bus drivers. No one wants them or needs them. If you dont like being in the public service and dealing with people, then fucking quit instead of being a low life prick.

there is a small fraction of bus drivers that are indeed common pricks, but it amazes me how when these bus riders who i am sure have glowing halos shimmering above thier craniums speak of the bus drivers they encounter as ALL pricks it only leads me to believe that the vibe given to them from these drivers is more likely the same treatment that they give to the driver. I ride transit 5 days per week and for long periods of time, and the attitudes i see that drivers deal with its no wonder they get hardened or disinterested in being cordial to the riders. Maybe try smiling at them as you board say a genuine hello and then see what you get in return i bet 9 times out of 10 it will be positive and that 1 time that it is not, feel sorry for the poor S O B he or she is probably as ready to snap as you are,after all we are all human and negativity is contagious as is smiling. :-)

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