New steel-and-glass doors aim to shield bus drivers from attacks

B.C. Transit is installing interior steel-and-glass doors to protect its drivers from potential assault.

“Full driver doors” will be tested on three buses in Victoria, one in Kelowna and one in Abbotsford at a cost of about $6,000 per bus.

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“They’re three of our largest fleets and historically it’s where we’ve had some challenges in terms of incidents,” said Manuel Achadinha, B.C. Transit’s president and chief executive officer. “We are looking forward to putting this on all of our buses across the fleet.”

“From 2007 to 2016, 30 B.C. Transit operators in the Capital Regional District were injured as a result of violent interactions with passengers,” WorkSafe B.C.’s Ray Zukanovic said Wednesday at an unveiling of the new door. “That’s 30 too many.

“It doesn’t matter if your workplace is on wheels or on top of a construction crane, every worker has the right to come home uninjured at the end of their shift.”

Ben Williams, president of Unifor Local 333 — the drivers’ union — said there are many types of assaults on drivers.

“They reach out and grab them, there are sucker punches … and assault by spit is becoming more common. It’s a very degrading thing to have happen to somebody.

“One of the things our operators have come to us over the years and said is they don’t feel safe,” Williams said.

Attacks on capital region buses have included the assault of a transit supervisor in September, leading to the arrest of an intoxicated man, and a March crime spree that began with an assault on a driver and continued throughout downtown Victoria.

Reaction from bus drivers and passengers will be sought over the next six months.

“In the last couple of years we’ve tried different models and we’ve got a lot of feedback from our operators on what they like, what they dislike and what they wanted to see in a new concept,” Achadinha said.

The concept for the door is meant to suit everyone’s needs, he said.

“It includes a base which is made out of steel, but then you’ll see the glass component on the top,” Achadinha said. “Basically, it maintains the driver’s visibility but also the opportunity for the customer to continue that customer interaction.

“And that’s a really key element that we’ve heard from our operators.”

Unions, WorkSafe B.C. and the provincial and local governments have all contributed to bringing the project along, he said.

Other measures like installing video surveillance cameras have already been effective in increasing safety on buses, said Susan Brice, who chairs the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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