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Checking bus fares too dangerous: TransLink drivers 0

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Bus driver Anna Palumbo wipes the tears from her face as tell her story during a press conference in New Westminster, B.C. on Tuesday December 3, 2013. Unions representing transit operators join forces with their employers to boost reward to help convict violent attacks of bus drivers, there have been more than 1,200 assaults on bus drivers in the past eight years in Metro Vancouver. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Bus driver Anna Palumbo wipes the tears from her face as tell her story during a press conference in New Westminster, B.C. on Tuesday December 3, 2013. Unions representing transit operators join forces with their employers to boost reward to help convict violent attacks of bus drivers, there have been more than 1,200 assaults on bus drivers in the past eight years in Metro Vancouver. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Lower Mainland bus drivers say they will no longer check fares after a spate of assaults — mainly verbal and spitting — on the transit operators.

Unifor 111 president Nathan Woods said on Tuesday drivers asking to check bus transfers or monthly passes is the No. 1 reason they’re being attacked.

Additionally, he said, only about 3% of Transit Police enforcement is on buses.

“Coast Mountain Bus Company has agreed in principle that we would … only ask for fare if the passenger is actually actively engaging with us,” Woods said.

“We will no longer be part of the problem in terms of actually demanding to see a fare because that’s what’s triggering most of the assaults.”

Drivers would push a hidden button for surveillance cameras to start recording for security to review the tapes later.

To date this year, there have been 124 driver assaults. In a case on Thanksgiving Day, No. 10 bus driver Anna Palumbo said that she was repeatedly threatened when she told a regular passenger to stop swearing. Her radio link to TransLink supervisors malfunctioned at the time.

“I have been off work since then,” she said, grateful another passenger “bribed” the alleged aggressor with a cigarette to get off the bus.

“It needs to stop and people need to come forward and say enough is enough.”

Woods said up to 20 locations around Metro Vancouver have radio “dead zones” where the communicators simply won’t work. He said TransLink is working to fix the issue, but that depends on funding.

Meanwhile, the transit union is offering $15,000 rewards for those who come forward with information leading to convictions of attackers.

Geoff Devlin, president of the Blue Bus drivers and mechanics union, said that next year bus operators will be encouraged to wear pin buttons that say, “Stop assaults on transit workers.”

 

 

 

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