Tuesday, November 23, 2010

London, ON Transit to Put Cameras on 200 Buses

Almost to a person they say they’ve have been afraid of violent passengers on London Transit buses and all applaud plans to add security cameras next year.

Patricia Sturgeon says she’s gotten off a London Transit bus before her intended stop a few times because she feared for her safety.

It’s not just one sort of passenger who becomes aggressive, she said.

“I even witnessed an elderly woman try to hit a driver with her cane,” Sturgeon said as she waited for a bus near the Central Library on Dundas Street.

London Transit will install four security cameras in each of its 200 buses by March at a cost of about $1.1 million.

While there was some discussion at LTC about privacy concerns, some of their regular customers say that is not an issue, especially when downtown London itself is chock full of surveillance cameras.

“There are cameras everywhere,” said Rob Weatherstone, who commutes daily to the courthouse where he has learned more than a little about security cameras — he’s a security officer.

Weatherstone says he twice had to help bus drivers escort out a rider who was abusive and threatening.

He’s also seen one passenger assault another — something Transit officials hope will be curbed by the cameras.

Transit officials also hope cameras curb liability claims made by passengers, claims that led London Transit to pay $1.5 million in insurance deductibles the past three years.

The union that represents 370 bus drivers says it’s been pushing for cameras since a survey 10 years ago found one-third of drivers in seven cities were subjected to violence or harassment over the previous two years.

Their call attracted public attention during and after a 29-day transit strike late last year — women bus drivers went to city hall to complain of being slapped, sworn at and spat upon.

London will join a growing line of transit systems that have cameras in their buses, a list that includes Edmonton, Winnipeg, Guelph, St. Catharines, Toronto and Halifax.

London Transit is also examining whether to install a barrier between drivers and passengers, something that would cost about $400,000. But transit management and drivers say the barriers don’t come without challenges and they want to study the options further.

London taxis already have security cameras, not video cameras, a requirement that took effect Jan. 31.