Winnipeg exploring safety measures on city buses, including security force, emergency signals

More measures to improve safety on Winnipeg buses, including a new emergency signal system and some form of transit security force, could be coming.

The City of Winnipeg’s public works committee will vote next week on a recommendation to install the emergency signals on all Winnipeg Transit buses. Once activated, the system would change the display on the front of buses to read: “Emergency Call 911 — Do Not Board Bus.”

“I think it’ll help in not escalating situations by having more people involved, because people will be able to see the signal and they’ll know not to board the bus,” said Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), chair of the public works committee.

The system allows bus drivers to activate the signal and alert Winnipeg Transit’s control centre that emergency responders are needed, according to a report to the public works committee on the agenda for its meeting next Wednesday.

In addition to the new signals, the transit advisory committee received a report from the public service regarding the creation of a transit security force.

“Transit advisory committee has considered the report and will be making a recommendation to council,” said Allard, who also chairs that committee.

That report has not yet been made public, but Allard expects it will be in the next few months. Allard would not discuss details of what kind of security force the city is considering before the report is released.

“It has been discussed by the transit advisory committee and it will be coming,” he said.

The recommendations come after demands from the union representing Winnipeg Transit drivers for greater safety measures on buses, following a number of alarming incidents in recent years, including assaults and stabbings of passengers and drivers.

The Amalgamated Transit Union 1505 has pushed the city to install better shields, saying there have been multiple incidents in which passengers have grabbed the steering wheel of a bus.

Shields were installed on city buses after driver Irvine Jubal Fraser, 58, was fatally stabbed in February 2017

Earlier this summer, the city announced a pilot project to stream bus security camera video directly to the Transit Control Centre during emergencies. 

The project involves 50 buses, and allows supervisors to tap into live camera feeds to assess situations and dispatch emergency services.

In order to install the new emergency signals on buses, the city needed to develop new technology integrating the current electronic bus signs with the two-way radios, at a cost of $9,100. 

The city expects installation to take two weeks, following approval.

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