City hall officials are trying to drum up about $1.3 million to hire 12 new transit officers. Better policing is just part of the solution to transit safety issues though — if the money can even be found.
A 130-page transit safety audit from February 2009 found Calgary has one transit officer for every 4,400 riders, compared to one for every 1,800 riders in Vancouver. The report recommended tripling the number of transit officers and, as part of that, hiring 12 this year.
Council scrapped those plans during budget debates.
Since then, Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart reintroduced the recommendation, supported by other aldermen. Now it’s time for administration to find the cash.
Fair enough. More peace officers would make me feel a little safer — although I probably still wouldn’t ride at night.
A more comprehensive approach is needed to address safety issues. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) involves building an environment that deters the opportunity for crime in the first place.
Part of this design approach involves surveillance such as peace officers and cameras — two things Calgary Transit seems keen on. It also recommends access control, meaning access to platforms, trains and buses should only be given to paying customers. This goes hand-in-hand with the safety audit’s recommendations to eliminate the downtown free-fare zone.
Resistance to vandalism is another suggestion from CPTED. That’s in line with the “Fixing Broken Windows” philosophy the New York City Transit Authority employed as a five-year program to eradicate graffiti from subway trains in 1984 as part of an overall (and effective) strategy to reduce subway crime.
The immediate area surrounding Anderson LRT is littered with broken glass, garbage and vandalism — I don’t think it could hurt keeping LRT stations and their surroundings in better shape.
The CPTED concept Calgary is really missing though is “Eyes on the Street,” where bustling activity from residents and workers keeps an environment safer. Calgary is a city built around cars and until that changes, public transit will serve little other purpose than moving some people to and from work, meaning our transit won’t be utilized enough during other times to give us safety in numbers.
Investing properly in design concepts to increase safety on transit will only increase ridership. And designing a city that supports transit will keep our buses, trains, stations and stops bustling, likewise creating a safe, well-used transit system. Hiring more peace officers is only part of the solution.
Adrienne Beattie is a Calgary-born writer who has covered urban issues since 2001 and has an English degree from the University of Calgary.