Survey reveals Connecticut bus operators forced to soil themselves

Denied restroom access by employers, Connecticut bus operators are forced to put their health, livelihoods, and the safety of themselves and their riders in jeopardy. ATU Locals across the state teamed up to survey their members and released the disturbing results today in Hartford, CT. Among the results, on average, 60% reported having no clean, accessible, well-equipped, or secure restrooms at the end of or along their routes. 80% of operators report that there is not enough time for bathroom breaks. 26% of operators report having soiled themselves on duty. 16% report having been warned, disciplined, or retaliated against for requesting to use a bathroom. Each Local in the state is submitting requests to their employers to agree to new contract language that would ensure operators can safely use the restroom.

Edmonton Local secures $20 million
for bus shields & safety plan

In the wake of a rider being attacked and an Edmonton bus driver recently being stabbed 13 times by an angry rider, Local 569-Edmonton, AB, and Edmonton Transit System have secured $20 million from the City Council to strengthen security for drivers and passengers. Among the protections: retractable bus driver shields with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning inside them. Remaining funds will be used to install cameras on all buses and have security personnel at all 26 stations around the clock. “It’s huge for us. Our membership, there’s never been as much anxiety as there is right now. Our members are quite afraid to be working late-night service,” said Local President Mark Tetterington. “Our operators really want those shields. They feel safer with shields.”

Winnipeggers support low-income bus pass

According to a recent poll, an overwhelming majority of Winnipeggers support a low-income bus pass program. “For too long, transit service has deteriorated while fares have risen beyond control, hurting working families, students, and seniors in Winnipeg,” said Aleem Chaudhary, president of Local 1505-Winnipeg, AB. “We want to give a small break to the people who need it most, who are already struggling with a low minimum wage, increasing hydro rates, and rising rents.” Noting that many attacks on bus operators are a result of fare disputes, Chaudhary believes low-income bus passes would help in reducing assaults on Winnipeg Transit operators.

Transit investments help car drivers, too

The mayor of Coronado recently suggested that prioritizing public transit investment over roads is “highway robbery,” but Vianney Ruvalcaba, transportation and planning coordinator at City Heights Community Development Corporation, says this is completely wrong. “Freeway expansions don’t just worsen traffic congestion, they poison our most vulnerable communities. The most disadvantaged communities of San Diego, in terms of socioeconomic status are at the highest risk of exposure to harmful pollutants,” Ruvalcaba writes in an opinion piece. “A large share of transit riders are captive riders because they cannot afford to own and maintain a car. San Diego’s workforce moves on transit.” She argues investment in San Diego’s public transit system would make the system more effective, efficient, and reliable for those who depend on it, but also help get people out of their cars and on to public transit.

Another attack on a bus operator,
this time in Thunder Bay, ON

Another day, another attack on a transit worker. The latest incident happened in Thunder Bay, ON, when an intoxicated man got on a bus and demanded a free ride. The driver refused, and the 56-year-old man struck him with a bottle in a bag. The driver was able to get the man off of the bus for the safety of other passengers. Police arrested the man, who was charged with Assault with a Weapon and Breach of Probation. Unfortunately this is an all too common scene. In response, ATU Locals are engaging in a union-wide campaign to push for better safety for transit workers and riders. There have already been successes, as the story above on Local 569-Edmonton, AB, shows.

‘I didn’t have time to stop’: C-Train driver
recounts horror of hitting pedestrian

The fear of hitting a pedestrian is one that lurks in the minds of all train operators. The worst case came to pass this week in Calgary when two people died after being hit by trains in separate incidents. A retired C-Train driver vividly recalls the experience as a nightmare almost 30 years after her deadly crash. “We hope it never happens. Nobody wants it to happen. And you can’t prepare yourself for it. It’s impossible,” she said. Local 583-Calgary, AB President Rick Ratcliff said C-Train drivers are well-trained, but it’s impossible to bring a 160-tonne, four-car train to an immediate halt. Ratcliff said support mechanisms are in place once a tragedy happens. Crisis management clinicians that specialize in critical incident response are sent out to support the drivers and staff at the stations involved. The Local also recently negotiated an additional $750 per year in counselling benefits with registered psychologists for staff.

ATU Training coming soon to your Mailbox

Keep an eye out for the next In Transit coming to your home soon. This edition features stories on ATU’s innovative and comprehensive training programs for Local officers and members alike to prepare, anticipate and fight for the interests of our members, riders and our communities. Also be sure to read International President Larry Hanley’s column and one from new ATU Canada President John Di Nino. We also cover the winners of the 2018-2019 ATU Tommy Douglas scholarships. You’ll also find stories about ATU Locals engaging and mobilizing in their communities. Check out this video for a preview.

Edmonton Local wins in ruling for drivers’ privacy

In the wake of two bus-related pedestrian fatalities in 2016, the City of Edmonton hired a contractor to develop a program to evaluate new hires’ driving skills and cognitive abilities. Citing privacy concerns Local 569-Edmonton challenged the cognitive testing in a grievance, arguing the city had “no legal or factual basis for imposing cognitive testing on all ETS drivers and no legal or factual basis for imposing subsequent medical assessments” on operators flagged by the test. An arbitrator agreed ruling that the cognitive testing is “unreasonable” and “intrusive” and an invasion of privacy. Now the Local and the city are working to reach a monetary settlement for those affected by the breach of privacy. Read more.

An ATU hero in Topeka, KS

Topeka Metro bus driver Niles Brandstoettner is being hailed as a hero for saving a lost child on his route. The Local 1360-Topeka, KS, member said his instincts took over when he saw the little girl walking in the street barefoot with no one else around. “I knew something was wrong, I pulled the bus over, I got out and went and picked her up,” Brandstoettner said. “I did the same thing anyone would have done, I hope.” The dispatcher who took the call from Brandstoettner, praised him, “Niles is a very compassionate, high energy and he thinks quick on his feet.” We couldn’t agree more. Read more.

Toledo Local: TARTA faces morale issues

Forced overtime and frequent bus breakdowns are devastating TARTA drivers’ and mechanics’ morale, Local 697-Toledo, OH wrote in a letter asking the agency head to attend a meeting of workers to discuss their concerns and possible solutions. “We are worn down and tired. Our families suffer because we are slaves to TARTA,” wrote Local President Carly Allen pointing out drivers put in more than 80 hours a week, have day-off requests denied and are disciplined for showing up a minute late. The Local’s mechanics say bus breakdowns are happening far too often, leaving them “frustrated and worried about what’s out on the road.” TARTA’s General Manager couldn’t attend, but sent his human resources manager instead. Read more.

Another possible blind spot accident

The tragic death of a pedestrian killed by a Harrisburg bus in a crosswalk could be another example of a preventable blind spot accident caused by poor bus design. Roughly one pedestrian per week is killed by a transit bus in the U.S. from accidents like these. Many buses in the U.S. have huge left hand mirrors mounted on critical sightlines and a massive “A” pillar that needlessly block the driver’s vision. More than a dozen pedestrians may be hidden from the driver’s view at any given time. Meanwhile European buses provide drivers with a clear view. ATU has been engaged in a union-wide campaign to call on transit agencies to fix these dangerous blind spots and other bus safety issues. ATU sends condolences to the Harrisburg victim’s family and thoughts to the bus driver involved in this accident. Read more.

Majority Wants Provincial Funding
Restored to Winnipeg Transit

Four out of five Winnipeg voters want the province of Manitoba to resume paying for half of the city’s transit costs that aren’t covered by fares according to a poll commissioned by Local 1505-Winnipeg, MB. The province froze its transit funding for Winnipeg at 2016 levels claiming a budgetary deficit. That left the city responsible for inflationary cost increases. In response the Winnipeg City Council raised transit fares this year. “The province has to step up and be able to restore the funding,” said Local President Aleem Chaudhary. “We also have the carbon tax coming in, and we should be able to put the funding back and … increase it.” Read more.