Central Okanagan buses still without safety measures for drivers

“It shouldn’t take the death of a transit worker” for BC Transit to take driver safety seriously.

Bus drivers across the Central Okanagan pulled over Monday afternoon and took a minute to remember Caesar Rosales, a Kelowna man who was killed by a random assailant three years ago while commuting home.

It’s the second time the local transit union has taken the time to remember Rosales and Scott Lovell, president of Local 1722 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said it’s a somber occasion they intend to keep going forward both for the man whose life was lost and for what it meant to this city.

“Violence in transit happens everywhere, but up until that night Kelowna was immune to it,” said Lovell.

“We are community and family-oriented …. but the specialness that we have was forever changed in that night. We became a big city transit system.”

Big city protections, however, have yet to arrive to help with big city problems in the Okanagan.

Buses in the Lower Mainland have been outfitted with security cameras and an on-board emergency communication system for drivers for years.

TransLink has also implemented safety barriers and there’s a dedicated transit police force.

In the Okanagan there have been cameras put on select buses and a lot of talk about implementing security barriers for drivers. It’s been two years since BC Transit had said they would have some barriers implemented for a pilot project, though no actual barriers have arrived.

“Nothing has happened,” said Lovell.

“The union and the company have worked really hard to get the drivers to completely remove themselves from (violent) situations. But still, even through the bits of education, word of mouth and the postings we have had on a regular basis there are still bus drivers getting assaulted.”

Lovell said it shouldn’t take the death of a transit worker for BC Transit to take driver safety more seriously.

“Every transit community, every transit jurisdiction has their own tragedies, their own stories of strife and sadness,” said Lovell, pointing out that in Winnipeg this year, Irvine Jubal Fraser, a driver of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 was murdered while on duty.

Rosales’s killer Tyler Jack Newton, 25, was sentenced to seven years in June 2016, but Newton received time and a half credit for the 602 days he’d already been imprisoned.

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