Don Duncan, BC Transit driver for 23 years, sits in the driver seat of one of the new buses fitted with an interior door to shield the driver. (Lauren Boothby/Victoria News)

Victoria bus drivers targeted for abuse

Victoria Regional Transit Commission aims to put the brakes on driver assaults

A pilot project promises to slam the door on abusive behaviour towards transit operators.

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission is one of three systems where BC Transit will test new interior doors designed to protect operators against incidents of physical and verbal assault, of which local officials have recorded 19 so far.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association, of which BC Transit is a member, defines assaults as any act of aggression physical or verbal — that hinders the driver’s ability to complete his or her scheduled run safely.

SEE: Drunk passenger assaults BC Transit workers in Victoria

So what accounts for the number of incidents? Operators interact with a wide of range of individuals, some of the whom may have consumed alcohol or drugs, while others may be dealing with mental health issues, said Saanich’s Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

Disputes over fares often precede conflicts between bus operators and riders, said transit commission chair Susan Brice in pointing to fare changes designed to reduce disagreements, over who needs to pay how much.

Other factors contributing to conflict between operators and riders include the time of the day, and location, said Brice.

This said, any number of factors can contribute to conflict between riders and operators. “You can’t always anticipate what’s going to trigger somebody to be aggressive,” she said.

The doors rolled out Wednesday themselves consist out of metal at the bottom, and plexiglass at the top. They will give operators the option of opening it for easier communication with riders.

“We believe that this addition will give operators additional safety,” said At the time same, it will allow drivers to maintain personal contact with riders, she said.

Transit systems in Kelowna, and Abbotsford will also test the doors, each of which costs $6,000. A total of five buses across the three systems will have the new doors, with three of the buses serving Victoria riders. The buses will run on various routes across the Greater Victoria region, including Saanich.

The pilot project will last for six months, followed by a review, that will then determine whether the doors will appear across the fleet, a potentially expensive proposition. “You want to make sure you get it right,” said Brice.

The Victoria Regional Transit has a total fleet of 289 buses of several types, and handled 25.5 million trips in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

The project includes several partners, including unions, WorkSafe B.C., as well as local and provincial governments. It follows a comparable pilot project featuring BC Transit and TransLink’s Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) in the Lower Mainland launched between 2015 and 2016.

Lower Mainland transit operators report the barriers have prevented dangerous or unwanted exchanges with problem passengers, and their system is moving ahead with plans to introduce the doors across conventional buses, a task to be completed within two years, according to the WorkSafe Magazine.

The pilot project follows after several high profile incidents of attacks against bus operators around the province, including the stabbing of a Kelowna driver with a syringe. Closer to home, Saanich police five years ago arrested a teenager after he had spat on a bus driver.

The pilot project is only the latest program designed to improve the overall safety to transit riders and operators. Almost exactly a year ago, the local transit commission announced the installation of closed circuit television, a move that has improved safety, said Brice.

Overall, the pilot project is only the latest in a number of measures designed to improve safety. “This is an important step, but not the only safety measure that we are taking,” said Brice. Other measures have included driver training designed to diffuse situations, partnerships with first responders, and enhanced communication technology on board the bus, she said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Friday night tickets affect Saturday behaviour at the University of Victoria

Saanich police see direct response after issuing several $230 fines

Sidney part of a region that suffers ‘chronic shortage’ of daycare spaces

Consultants find that Sidney needs 233 new spaces to meet the current demand for daycare

Thieves harvest from 11 unlocked cars in Oak bay

Looting unlocked cars called ‘farming,’ says deputy chief

HMCS Victoria popping up as training sessions underway

MARPAC says plume of smoke normal for recharging submarine

West Shore RCMP seeks video footage after homeowner interrupts Colwood break and enter

Police were called to 600-block of Stornoway Drive late Sunday

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

COVID-19 liquor, music rules extended with fines

‘Nightclubs must cease operating as nightclubs’

Carole James heads ‘caretaker’ B.C. government

James is among 15 MLAs retiring at the end of their current term

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Most Read