Assaults on transit operators must stop

Imagine if you were you headed to Vancouver Island on B.C. Ferrieswhen, out of the blue, a drunken passenger began urinating in full viewof the travelling public — before proceeding to punch out a staffmember on board, or even assaulting the vessel captain himself.

Imagine if you were you headed to Vancouver Island on B.C. Ferries when, out of the blue, a drunken passenger began urinating in full view of the travelling public — before proceeding to punch out a staff member on board, or even assaulting the vessel captain himself.

Your natural reaction, like the general public’s, might range from utter disbelief to complete outrage.

And if a similar incident happened on a passenger airplane? Well, we’re all aware of the understandable hysteria that would ensue, not to mention the harsh consequences administered by the criminal justice system.

And yet, when we heard about the same thing happening on a bus in Metro Vancouver recently, we shrugged our collective shoulders in frustrated and angry resignation.

It seems like criminal acts on city transit are more commonplace than ever. Even if the stats don’t bear out a massive spike in anti-social activity — assaults are up 13 per cent compared to the year previous — the viciousness and tragic results of some of these acts cannot and should not be brushed aside. The recent dust-up is just the latest in a string of cowardly assaults on bus operators and passengers.

And you can’t help but wonder what bus drivers are up against this Halloween. Two years ago, to celebrate the occasion, some teenage girls brutally attacked a female bus driver in East Vancouver, before torching the trolley bus she was driving.

The attacks aren’t just an evening phenomenon, mind you. This spring, during the middle of the day, a skateboarder in North Vancouver dangerously latched on to the back of a bus for a free ride. The bus driver was assaulted by the skater after leaving the vehicle to ask him to stop.

All of this begs the question: Where is the boosted protection for transit workers?

Peter Julian, the NDP MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, has been calling for enhanced protection for transit workers for several years now, and harsh jail sentences for those who imperil their well-being.

With his New Democratic Party helping to prop up the Conservative minority government in Ottawa, the timing is right to bring this issue to the top of the agenda. After all, it’s a cause that should resonate well with Stephen Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda.

More importantly, it will help reduce the ugly punch-ups, spitting incidents and screaming matches that we are all the worse for.