As someone who rides Translink, do you feel safe?
Generally speaking, I do. There are some times at night when I’ll get a little leery of some of my fellow passengers, but it’s nothing to worry about. But what about when it does become something to worry about, who’s responsible for it? I got to thinking the other day about riding the bus at night and abusive passengers. Let me explain…
I was taking the #19 down Kingsway around 10pm and the bus was pretty full, as this route can be, especially during the day. The driver wasn’t picking up all the passengers, which I felt bad about since it was freezing and the bus only comes every 30 minutes. At the same time I understand, there’s barely room to breathe and letting on 10 more people isn’t going to help the situation. Several stops later the bus was emptying out, still crowded but there would have been room to let more people on, but the bus driver wasn’t stopping if no one wanted off. I noticed at one point we passed a stop where a lone woman stood waiting, she was in her early 20’s I guess. Perhaps because I had an overly cautious mother growing up (in fact still do, she calls me all the time and freaks out if I walk the 15 minutes from the skytrain station at night), I wonder if it’s really safe for a lone girl to be standing there alone. I don’t know how long she’d been there, but she’ll be there half an hour more and there was plenty of room on the bus for the one girl.
The driver should have stopped, whether it was a woman or man, but it made me wonder if drivers should be making the stops for lone women regardless if there’s room for one more or not. I’m not saying women are fragile creatures who shouldn’t wait in the cold/rain/whatever, but from a personal safety standpoint, is this a fair argument?
The safety and security of passengers and the drivers is imperative to Translink, they’ve installed cameras and voice recording devices for this very reason. But how much should the drivers get involved? And what about those who aren’t technically passengers yet (who are waiting for the bus at the stop)?
A year ago I was teaching at a downtown ESL school. The students were made up mostly of Japanese, Korean, Mexican and Saudi Arabian students. Many of the Saudi girls wore hijab’s, the scarf worn over their head and around their neck, and would relay to the teachers some of the looks and comments they got when they were in the city. One girl told me about an incident on a bus going up Robson street, the girl had gotten on with her young son in a stroller and a homeless man got on at the same time, he rode for free as he basically told the bus driver that he wasn’t paying. As she sat down on the bus the man sat across from her and started calling her Osama Bin Laden and taunting her with comments like “terrorist” and that she would “blow the bus up” and saying to fellow passengers that it wasn’t a baby in the stroller but a bomb. She got uncomfortable and the other passengers ignored the situation, looking away and avoiding eye contact. The driver, who could hear everything as they were at the front of the bus and the man was quite loud, did nothing. Eventually the abusive passenger stood up and got closer to her, either because he thought he couldn’t hear or didn’t think she understood, as he kept asking if she spoke English. She felt threatened and got off the bus far from her destination.
I told her if I was a passenger I like to think I would have said something, or at least talked to her and asked if she was ok. But would I? Why didn’t anyone else? It was a busy midday bus on Robson Street, there were plenty of people on board.
But it’s not the onus of the passengers to ensure personal safety, although it certainly is the decent thing to do.
I would think that it is something that the driver was responsible for, either to have not let the guy on in the first place (the girl says she thinks he was drunk) or to have kicked him off. I know that there’s a lot of problems with driver abuse, but as the employee of Translink they’re responsible for ensuring the safety of all onboard. In this case it would have simply been to throw him off.
Translink’s website offers these security tips, most importantly asking us to be aware and proactive.
Am I expecting too much? Is the safety and security of passengers and drivers in the hands of the drivers or is it every (wo)man for themselves?