IN THE MEDIA ~ Facebook group urges tough new penalties for those who assault transit drivers

THE TORONTO SUN (FINAL)
DUPLICATE: EDMONTON SUN
NEWS, Page: 4

TTC workers ready to hit back
Facebook group urges tough new penalties for those who assault transit drivers
IAN ROBERTSON, TORONTO SUN

TTC workers are being urged to lobby the federal government to increase penalties for thugs who assault bus drivers, ensuring prison sentences match those imposed for attacks on cops or prison guards.

The request Sunday to sign a petition backing Bill C-314 was posted by TTC staffer Jack Gajic, on his Facebook site, Toronto Transit Operators Against Public Harassment.

Gajic launched it after the media published photos of snoozing ticket takers and drivers leaving passengers waiting while taking breaks.

The bill, tabled in the House of Commons last year by NDP MP Peter Julian, seeks a new offence of first degree murder and increased punishment for aggravated assaults on public transportation workers.

Bill C-314 remains before Parliament for consideration.

Brian West, a disabled British Columbia transit user, posted the online petition after a Boxing Day attack on a Vancouver bus driver. In addition to driver safety, West said "passengers are at risk, too."

He said bus operators "are human just like you and me," and don't deserve to be used by someone "as a punching bag to take their frustration out on."

Gajic's website also carried numerous supportive messages from Facebook members who read Sunday Sun columnist Michele Mandel's feature: "A day in the life of (disgruntled) TTC riders."

Catherine Goss said most problems plaguing the TTC "have very little to do with the competency of the operators. Unfortunately, and dangerously the frontline workers have become the scapegoat for those in control to avoid taking responsibility for a system that is not up to par as it should be for a world-class city," Goss wrote.

Tracey Perks-Rea blasted city politicians for being self-serving by criticizing TTC workers.

"The suits use frontline people as shields," Andrew Shydlowsky wrote.

Jen McCloskey, said "every career has its drawbacks and its bonuses. This is the one thing that helped me decide to become an operator -- helping the public."

While some "mean drivers" upset Teena Marie Shilling in the past, "I say kudos to you all and I think it's really sad how you have to take so much abuse from people."

After talking to a TTC driver friend "I can't believe above all, what subway drivers go through, the things you have to see!! It's amazing how riders take the subway everyday and we have no clue what you truly deal with (jumpers, pushers, etc..)"

Access the petition at: http://ne-np.facebook.com/group.php?gid=230448930058&ref= hare