Saskatoon bus drivers report sharp increase in confrontations with riders

Saskatoon has seen an increase in incidents reported by city bus drivers over the past four years. File / Global News

Reports of confrontations experienced by Saskatoon Transit drivers spiked dramatically last year, according to a city report.

Saskatoon Transit reviewed “negative interactions” from 2017 to 2020, including assault, harassment and verbal altercations.

Read more: 4 youth charged in reported assault on Saskatoon Transit driver, police officer

Bus drivers reported 308 negative interactions over the past four years, the report says. There were 130 incidents from January to Nov. 30, 2020, up from 76 in 2019 and 51 each in 2018 and 2019.

Of the 308 incidents over the past four years, 37 involved assaults on drivers.

The sharp increase in confrontations is likely due to better reporting and pandemic-related stress, said Saskatoon Transit Director Jim McDonald.

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“People were, in general, a lot more frustrated in 2020 than they were in previous years,” McDonald said.

“Regardless though, we’re happy to see the level of reporting increase because that actually gives a better indicator of what’s going on on the road.”

Read more: Saskatoon city council approves pilot program to protect bus drivers

Saskatoon Transit has encouraged its roughly 300 drivers to report all incidents, he said, and has streamlined the reporting process.

“We try and not let things fall through the cracks,” he said.

McDonald said city buses have moved millions of passengers over the past four years, so the number of negative interactions is comparatively small.

“Our staff can be proud of the fact that there isn’t more,” he said. “That’s the way we’d like to keep it. I would love it to be zero, but I don’t know if that’s possible.”

City administration prepared its report as part of council’s approval to fund a $500,000 pilot project to install safety barriers around some driver’s compartments.

The first shields will likely be installed by autumn, McDonald said.

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Click to play video: 'Saskatoon transit union flags safety concerns after assault on bus driver' Saskatoon transit union flags safety concerns after assault on bus driver
Saskatoon transit union flags safety concerns after assault on bus driver – Feb 28, 2020

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