Rocking the bus: Some drivers are losing control
Chronicle Herald Editorial
Halifax, Nova Scotia
THERE IS a certain irony in the fact that Metro Transit finds itself trapped in a non-stop public-relations nightmare.
After all, this was the same company which last month made a conservative – yet defensible – decision not to run so-called atheist ads on its vehicles for fear of igniting a non-stop debate which it was not interested in moderating.
But now the bizarre behaviour of some its own drivers has touched off a series of controversies that have generated more flak than the God question ever would have.
For example, what on Earth possessed an on-duty bus driver to intervene in a street protest on Saturday afternoon? According to witnesses, he stopped his vehicle full of passengers on Spring Garden Road, jumped out, crossed the street, swung a baton and hit the ground next to a stuffed seal that was being used as a prop by anti-sealing demonstrators.
The protesters were not blocking the busy downtown street. So this was hardly an act of road rage, or of frustrations boiling over. In any case, a professional whose primary responsibility is the safety of dozens of passengers should be able to keep his cool at all times.
Bridget Curran, director of the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition, is disappointed the driver was not charged in the wake of his outburst, which some demonstrators found intimidating. We believe police made the right decision, given that no one or nothing was physically harmed and no direct threats appear to have been issued.
But disciplinary action against the driver is certainly warranted. He wandered off the job for no good reason. There is no excuse for holding up a busload of people to pull a personal stunt like that outside the Public Gardens. If he wants to be a busker, he can do that on his own time.
The way things are going, though, he should take a number at the discipline department. Metro Transit is investigating a couple of other recent incidents in which bus drivers appear to have lost their bearings.
Road rage seems to have been a factor in an incident late last month during which a Metro Transit driver allegedly used his bus to bump an illegally parked courier van twice on Barrington Street.
And witnesses say that on March 10, a driver berated a Muslim couple. The female passenger was wearing a niqab, a headdress with only an opening for the eyes, and the driver tried to kick her off the bus. A verbal altercation ensued, and a passerby, Sarah Wilbur, intervened in the couple’s favour. “I started talking to the bus driver and saying, ‘It’s not your decision who can or can’t get on the bus, especially based on beliefs,’ ” Ms. Wilbur told The Chronicle Herald. “It’s not getting on the bus with a ski mask.”
There is a Metro Transit policy that allows drivers to ask patrons to show their faces because masked riders can be intimidating to other passengers. But a pregnant, conservative Muslim hardly fits the bill.
If the investigation finds the version of events recounted to this newspaper to be accurate, she certainly deserves an official apology. As for the bus driver, he doesn’t need cultural sensitivity training so much as a good dose of common sense.
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