A few weeks ago, I happened to watch an episode on our local CTV affiliate that delved into the increasing violence our public transit drivers are subjected too.
Apparently, being spit on, kicked, punched and verbally abused is not something that only happens to drivers in the big cities south of the border. It’s alive and well here in Toronto and it’s getting worse, especially on the late night runs out of the downtown core.
An old neighbour of mine (who has long since passed away) drove the TTC buses and streetcars for over 20 years. I recall spending many a night with him sampling his homemade wine and swapping stories. Judging by the way I felt the next day, his vinno probably could have fueled the entire TTC fleet – it packed a real punch.
Anyway, occasionally he’d talk about some of his more memorable experiences driving the red rocket – none involved violence – and most were hilarious.
He recalled on one particular night, he picked up a passenger who demanded to be driven home. The guy had a belly full of booze and was slurring his words (at least he was smart enough to take public transit). Upon learning that he wasn’t in a taxi, this guy threatened to hijack the bus.
As fate would have it, the bus was actually a streetcar and as such, could only follow the tracks that it was sitting on. My neighbour informed him of this and at the next stop, the guy got up, politely thanked him and stumbled into the night. That was 20-odd years ago. My how things have changed.
It seems to me that the TTC should invest in some sort of protective enclosure for these people. Perhaps a “Call Police” emergency button on the back of each bus or streetcar – much like the one the cabs installed a few years ago – would be the answer.
Apparently, the incidence of reported violence is to a far lesser degree with the fleet’s female drivers. I’m not sure if they are assigned historically “safe” routes or not. Perhaps it’s a case where the thugs responsible don’t get the same “buzz” out of beating on someone of the opposite sex.
It’s a sad state of affairs when Toronto police officers consider their occupation safer than driving a bus or streetcar.
This city needs help.
– Rob Wilkins is the publisher of Truck News and he can be reached at 416-510-5123.