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Union calling for safer transit following violent incidents on Winnipeg buses

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The transit union is calling for enhanced safety measures following a slew of violent incidents on Winnipeg buses.

On Thursday, the Amalgamated Transit Unit (ATU) held a rally at Winnipeg City Hall to call for extended safety shields to protect bus drivers, as well improved radio systems, and a transit security force.

“Our political leaders should be doing something to address the growing concerns about safety for our workers, city workers, for the public, transit users,” said Romeo Ignacio, president of ATU Local 1505, at the rally.

“Because at the end of the day, this is our city.”

Violent attacks on Winnipeg Transit buses has been an ongoing issue for a while.

Ignacio mentioned a recent incident where a woman attempted to stab a bus driver on a transit bus. The driver managed to escape by jumping through the driver’s side window.

“He was inches away from a knife that was wielded by a female assailant on one of our busy routes,” he said.

Ignacio says the drivers’ jobs are to operate the buses, and they shouldn’t have to be concerned for their personal safety, as well as the safety of the passengers.

He said that the province’s political leaders need to deal with the root causes of this violence, including homelessness, addiction and mental health.

“That is what’s driving the rise in crime, the rise in violence on our buses,” he said, noting the issues have spilled over into Winnipeg’s bus shelters.

Ignacio said he wants the city and province to commit to enhancing safety, not just for transit riders and operators, but everyone.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg said the safety of Winnipeg Transit passengers, drivers, and other employees is a top priority.

The spokesperson added that Transit continues to invest in a number of safety initiatives, which include safety shields on all buses; a capital project to replace all bus radio hardware and related equipment; and equipping all buses with emergency signals, among many other safety precautions. The city also noted that the Transit Advisory Committee is exploring strategies and options for a long-term security plan for Winnipeg Transit.

Since 2017, the City of Winnipeg has invested $9.6 million in transit safety initiatives, which have either been implemented or are in the process of being implemented.

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