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'It's horrible taking a bus in this city': Saskatoon councillors commit to funding transit social support workers


Saskatoon’s transit union and bus riders weighed in at the city’s transit committee meeting on Wednesday, as councillors mulled whether to hire support workers to deal with increased safety concerns.

Bus rider Mary Fedun told councillors she had to steel herself before getting on the bus. She resents having to ride with others who get on without paying.

“We should be able to take it, too, without fear, and without disgust. And right now, that’s it. It’s horrible taking a bus in this city,” she said.

Saskatoon’s transit administrators prepared a set of options to hire dedicated social support workers for city buses following reports in February of escalating violence and mental health-related incidents on public transit.

Administration recommended the city wait until they finish an already-underway review of the community support officer program to adopt a city-wide approach to the transit concerns, but the local transit workers’ union says they need help now.

“Our transit operators are seeing increased incidents on the buses, whether it be violence, intoxicated passengers, illicit drug use on the buses or the unhoused riding around aimlessly,” said local union President Darcy Pederson.

Pederson told councillors there were 500 assaults on city buses in 2022 and just last month, there were four assaults in a seven-day period. He said bus drivers are trained to operate the bus safely, not to intervene in mental health or addictions crises.

“The words I don’t feel safe are chilling when it comes to the future of our transit system,” said Councillor David Kirton.

The union is pushing to get dedicated support workers stationed at the two terminals with the most incidents and a few on targeted routes.

The sticking point for councillors was how the city will afford the extra staff. The union’s proposal would add millions to the budget.

Councillor Randy Donauer said he agreed the safety issues on public transit were urgent and the city should consider hiring support workers, but he was beginning to dread the upcoming budget discussions.

Ultimately, councillors asked administration to come back with funding options for the dedicated support workers the transit union asked for, but not until the city finished its review of the community support officer program. It’s currently scheduled to wrap up in December. Top Stories

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