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.