In an effort to reduce a rise in social disorder on the city’s transit network, the City of Calgary is implementing enhanced safety measures for the next several weeks.
Starting Monday, more transit peace officers, bylaw officers, Calgary Police Service members and uniformed security guards will be stationed across the transit system, a city release said.
Ambassadors will be on site at some station entrances to check for proof that riders paid their fare, with additional staff deployed to monitor security cameras and coordinate with peace officers and emergency officials.
With the government of Alberta’s work-from-home order lifting on Tuesday, transit officials said they want commuters to feel safe.
“We’ve been monitoring social disorder and our transit systems since the beginning of the pandemic and we know that it’s a topic of concern for many Calgarians. We’re committed to providing a clean, safe and accessible transit system,” Calgary Transit director Sharon Fleming told Global News.
“As the provincial work-from-home order ends and we welcome new riders and our riders back, we want to make sure that we have the safety and security of everyone in mind.”
These additional measures are expected to remain in place over the next “several weeks.”
Addressing social disorder on the transit system has been a significant issue for Calgary Transit and the city over the last two years.
Some transit riders that spoke with Global News on Monday said they’ve noticed the rise in disorder on the train.
“There’s a lot of riff raff on the train at night. I’ve stepped in when some people have felt bothered,” Raymond Dagenais said. “I feel 100 per cent safe.”
But others, like Crowchay Crowchief, said they welcome a heightened safety presence on the train line.
“There’s always bad stuff happening on every single train station,” he said. “I’m happy there’s police and peace officers at every single train station because people do get stabbed.”
Earlier this year, Calgary Transit officials closed three train stations overnight to address “large gatherings” of people trying to seek shelter inside during a frigid cold snap.
At the time, city officials said roughly 170 people were seeking shelter in the stations per night. Those stations lack washrooms and regular temperature control overnight.
Instead, the city deployed resources to transport vulnerable people using the stations as shelter to local shelters and services.
Weeks after those closures, transit officials shut down 24-hour indoor access to Anderson, Southland, Heritage and Erlton Stampede Park stations.
Transit officials said the closures allowed Calgary Transit to “tend to the other station buildings that people are gathering in.”
Global News confirmed indoor access to those stations remains closed.
“There was a big push between partner organizations to ensure that folks who are unhoused or needing some support services were able to access them,” Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek said. “We’re finding now that with everyone returning to work and work-from-home orders lifted, we will see more activity on transit.”
Transit officials said there will be continued work with the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) Team as well as grassroots outreach teams and shelter providers to help people access supports that are needed.
Last week, Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp said she and some of her colleagues met with city and transit officials to discuss the “crisis of safety on transit” after receiving multiple calls to her office and touring the Tuscany CTrain station.
“We need to get people to where they need to get to safely, and some of these folks don’t have another option, this is the only way they can get around,” Sharp told Global News. “Safety should not be an option for folks who live in the city.”
Calgary Transit said it’s hoping the lifting of the work from home order will translate into ridership.
During a recent update to city council, officials said the hope is to reach 75 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership levels in 2022 after a sharp decline in ridership throughout the pandemic.
If that goal is met, Calgary Transit will be facing a revenue shortfall of $33 million, but that could increase to up to $89 million if ridership levels only reach the service’s low-estimate of 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
“Returning ridership to transit is critical to ensure our operational stability as a transit system,” Fleming told Global News. “But it’s also really important to ensure that we’re not forced to reduce our service going forward.”
Other safety supports for riders:
- Riders with immediate safety concerns are encouraged to report them to the bus or CTrain operator, uniformed peace officer or law enforcement authorities
- By text to 74100
- Through the help phones located on CTrain stations, platforms and MAX Purple stations, or
- By phone at 403-262-1000, option 1
For emergencies, always call 9-1-1.
While face covering rules will be eased this week, passengers are reminded that the provincial rules still require face coverings to be worn on public transit.