Increased presence of inspectors, heavier penalties, increased funding: the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) publishes a series of recommendations to ensure more safety in public transport networks, in the face of “an increasing number of incidents of violence” across the country.
“No single solution can solve the complex problem of violence on public transport alone. So we need to bring together experts and stakeholders from different fields,” CUTA President and CEO Marco D’Angelo argued Monday, calling for an “emergency meeting” with provincial and federal governments to discuss the “causes depths” of the phenomenon.
A task force set up by the association had been working on recommendations since June 2022. In its report, this group says that “fear of violence threatens to derail the recovery that transit agencies and municipalities have been hoping for”, at a time when public transit ridership is still stagnating around 73% of the pre-pandemic level in Canada.
Since the beginning of January, many violent events have occurred in the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) network, but also in British Columbia, where the West Vancouver drivers’ union recently called for stronger measures. In Montreal, La Presse also reported last Friday that the worrying situation of constables and bus drivers. The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is already working on an “enhanced” security plan.
“What happens in Toronto, it could happen here. […] We are hearing more and more stories of violence across Canada and here. We are always a little more fearful when we get up in the morning to come and do our job, ”illustrated Pino Tagliaferri, from the STM bus drivers union.
Faced with this, the ACTU recommends in particular “to invest more in the creation of positions in safety, security and law enforcement” in public transport. There is also talk of “stricter regulations, so that constables and police have the ability to curb dangerous behavior”.
Provincial governments should then “provide transit agencies with dedicated mental health outreach staff.” Ottawa, for its part, is called upon to “toughen penalties for assault against all transit personnel”, by including “all workers” and “not just operators” in section 269.01 of the Criminal Code relating to bodily harm.
The association reiterates in passing that “public transit cannot be a solution to homelessness”, which is on the rise in several major Canadian cities.
In Mr. D’Angelo’s view, therefore, provincial governments should fund more “access and overnight admission to social services, warming and cooling centers, so that people in need of help avoid shelter” in public transit.
Because “substance use has no place on public transit systems,” the organization suggests “addressing the problem of substance abuse by improving support programs, enforcement, and diverting activities to sanctioned areas”.
In the midst of a transit funding crisis, CUTA also makes no secret that “appropriate funding” would make a difference. All transport agencies should also “explore partnerships with mental health services, positioning outreach workers in the network to help staff”.