Saturday, August 15, 2009

When Public Employees Do Wrong

Environmentalists and urban planners (many of whom are environmentalists) urge us constantly to find alternatives to gas hogging automobiles, in our daily commuting lives. For millions of people around the world, that alternative is public transit - local run buses, streetcars, subways, trains, and in some places mule and cart.

When we take public transit, we’re putting out lives into the hands of the persons responsible for making the system work - the ticket takers, drivers, even the janitors.

So when news broke about a Canadian bus driver being arrested for drinking and driving while on the job, it quickly spread throughout the city, the province, and the country.

Yesterday, Brian Lyons, 54, was charged with impaired driving, after a passenger on the Mississauga Transit Bus he was driving complained that something was medically wrong with the driv

Official logo of City of MississaugaImage via Wikipedia

er to police. Turns out, Lyons wasn’t ill, he was toasted - having three-times the legal limit of alcohol in his system.

Lyons isn’t new, he’s been a bus driver for over 25-years - though even if he were a recent hire, he should have known that drinking and driving isn’t just plain dumb and dangerous, but it is also quite illegal.

No one was hurt, this time - though if one driver is working drunk, who knows how many more are - and one day, one of those public employee

Toronto Transit Commission streetcar by nightImage via Wikipedia

s could kill themselves, a passenger, or a helpless victim that just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This isn’t the first-time a public transit worker in the Greater Toronto Area - Mississauga is a city to the west of Toronto - has been caught drinking on the job. A couple of years ago a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus driver was charged and later convicted of having more than the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, while he was driving the bus.

There have also been incidents in other North American cities and towns, where public transit workers have been charged and convicted of driving their public transit vehicles while under the influence of a controlled substance.

What is the world coming to when those public employees whom we lay our precious lives out for respect and keep safe during our travels, go on a bender not just before work, but during?

How many more public transit workers must be charged and convicted of putting their passenger’s lives in harm’s way, before something is done? How many passengers must die before public transit operators take steps to ensure those who depend on these methods of travel are treated with no less respect, dignity and above all else, safety, as any other person in our society?

Steps have been taken in recent years to protect the operators of our transit systems. Closed Circuit Cameras have been installed on all the buses and streetcars in the TTC, and most other transit vehicles in the Greater Toronto Area - and on other systems around the world. They have even begun installing secure doors on TTC buses, so that the driver is behind a Plexiglas shield, protecting him or her from passengers.

Although the safety of the driver is never at question - he or she shoul

Trasantiago in Chile .Image via Wikipedia

d be able to work in a safe and comfortable professional environment, just as anyone else - what is being done to protect passengers from civic employees that are operating under the influence of a controlled substance - such as alcohol?

Without such protections, getting onto a public transit vehicle of any kind maybe better for the environment, but not necessarily for you.

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