Life ain’t easy when you’re a bus driver. Dealing with the public in any job can be difficult and frustrating at times, not to mention on rare occasions outright dangerous. And even though the vast majority riders on ETS are nice, polite and easy to deal with, there are a lot of crazies out there too.
Bus drivers get disrespected, yelled and cursed at and are sometimes physically attacked.
Stu Litwinowich of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, which represents Edmonton bus drivers, estimates that there are about 800 such incidents a year, albeit not all of these are violent.
And according to ETS, last year there were 70 “acts of violence” committed against bus drivers, ranging in nature from spitting at drivers to physical assault.
Over the next year, ETS plans to test three prototypes of Plexiglas shields on city buses. These will not be mandatory shields, and can be left open or closed at the driver’s discretion.
The Amalgamated Transit Union is fully on board with the idea of safety shields.
While I can appreciate the concerns that led to ETS to test the shields, my biggest concern is that they really do nothing to protect passengers — and even most larger cities have never resorted to installing safety shields on their buses.
Litwino-wich is quick to point out that the ATU doesn’t consider the city’s buses to be unsafe, and acknowledges that the city does everything it can to keep drivers and passengers safe. But with passengers constantly hopping on and off the bus, situations can change in an instant.
In 2008, during a city council hearing, the ATU came out against extending late-night service to 3:30 a.m. or 24 hours, citing safety concerns.
When asked if the installation of Plexiglas shields would help address safety concerns brought up by the ATU last year, Litwinowich concurred that it was a step in the right direction. “We move closer to 24 hour service as the city grows,” he conceded.