The testing process for bus driver protective barriers on a number of TransLink buses is still underway and there is no decision yet on whether the barriers will be coming to the entire fleet.
Four buses that operate from the bus depots in Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Surrey, and Burnaby have been outfitted with bus barriers since late-2014. Since then, the regional transportation authority says that it has used feedback from bus operators, maintenance crews, and customers to determine the performance of the barriers for driver safety, the safe operation of the bus, customer service, and the maintenance needs of the barrier.
“We’re taking the time needed to explore the benefits and challenges of using bus barriers, working methodically and collaborating with other agencies such as BC Transit and Brampton Transit to find the best fit for our region,” TransLink spokesperson Chris Bryan told Vancity Buzz.
The cost to retrofit each of the buses to accommodate the barriers is high given that the barriers need to be adapted to fit the respective bus. In consequence, TransLink says it may opt to have the barriers pre-installed into new future orders instead as the older models retire.
One of the new bus orders arriving shortly will come with a factory-installed driver barrier, and it is expected that the bus will in service by this summer. Feedback collected from the initial pilot testing phase was used to create the latest barrier design, which is a slightly different design and will go through a similar testing and analysis phase as the first barriers.
“If we move forward with bus barriers, it will likely be included as standard equipment in new bus shipments,” Bryan said. “Retrofitting existing buses can be expensive, as each bus model requires a uniquely engineered design and we would need to do an analysis to determine if we wanted to take that approach as well.”
Shield-like barriers to protect bus drivers from unruly passengers and assaults have been discussed for years.
Just last weekend, a driver of a large articulated bus on Commercial Drive near East Broadway was physically assaulted while the bus was still in motion.
From the start of the year to the end of April, there have been 32 assaults against bus drivers, which is a slight decrease over the same period in 2015.
Last year in total, there were 110 recorded assaults on drivers, representing a decline over the numbers in 2014 and 2013.
Drivers already have other on-board safety tools at their disposal such as security cameras, GPS radio, and an emergency button. As well, drivers are trained not to confront passengers over fare non-payment and instead press the “unpaid fare” button on the fare machine dashboard.