Safety on the job for bus drivers is back in the news after police say a TransLink driver was assaulted in Vancouver while behind the wheel late Tuesday night, allegedly by a Surrey man.
Sergeant Clint Hampton of the Transit Police said a 49-year-old Surrey man was arrested in Metrotown in Burnaby following an assault near Cambie Street and 45th Avenue in south Vancouver at about 10:30 p.m. April 23.
He said the Surrey man was released on a promise to appear in court. No charge has been laid, he said.
Hampton said the driver was driving his bus when a man walked up to him from down the aisle.
“He then just punched the driver in the side of the face, while he was driving. The driver and a bystander were in a struggle with this suspect. They managed to get him off the bus. The suspect, actually, received an injury just above his eye,” Hampton said.
Later in the evening, he said, a man matching the description of the assailant was spotted in MetroTown, where Transit Police and Burnaby Mounties took him into custody.
“I would say we do deal with bus operator assaults, I wouldn’t say on a regular basis, but one is too many,” Hampton said. “It’s something that we take obviously seriously, we investigate them to the fullest of our ability, and anything we can do to mitigate these assaults from happening in the future, we will.”
Unifor 111 represents more than 3,700 bus drivers in Metro Vancouver. “We want to have a healthy and safe work environment,” Harb Kular, its vice-president, told the Now-Leader. “In any workplace, everybody wants to make sure they get home safe to their families, right.”
In 2014, Transit Police launched a public awareness campaign concerning bus drivers being attacked and harassed, calling it “Don’t Touch the Operator.”
Anne Drennan, spokeswoman for the Transit Police, said at the time it “isn’t okay to take out frustrations or anger on a bus operator, that everybody deserves respect in their workplace and that buses are in fact the work place or places of work for our bus operators.”
TransLink’s quarterly board meeting on March 22 heard there were 89 bus driver assaults in 2018, down from 99 in 2017.