As important as public transit buses are to a functional society, they are nothing without the drivers who operate them.
Despite this, a worrying trend appears to growing, and it isn’t exclusive to Kingston.
“We’re seeing shortages across this industry across Canada,” said Brad Joyce, commissioner for infrastructure, transportation and emergency services for the City of Kingston.
While a number of issues are causing the shortages, one in particular stands out.
“We’re also seeing a rise, generally, over the last few years in disrespectful behaviour towards our transit operators,” Joyce said.
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 109 represents Kingston transit drivers. President Adam Bol said abuse paired with some drivers feeling like they aren’t supported has led to drivers resigning.
“A lot of our members don’t feel backed up by management when these actions happen and no one wants to put up with that kind of abuse every day,” Bol said.
He said the city needs to establish a better plan of action to deal with abuse against drivers.
“We’re not going to blame the city because someone that gets on the bus is unruly, but there needs to be a better system of what do we do after it happens,” he added.
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The city says it is doing what it can to assist the drivers.
“We’ve done de-escalation training with them, we’re providing more support from a supervisory perspective to get a supervisor on the road if there is an incident,” Joyce said.
Bol acknowledges and appreciates the steps the city is taking, but he says it’s not enough.
“If something like that were to happen at city hall or John Counter Boulevard, the police would be called immediately,” he said.
For the safety of the drivers and riders, it’s hoped a solution to this growing problem is found sooner rather than later.
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