Cameras on buses as result of agreement

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Written by Bre Walt

There has been much discussion and debate recently around the security cameras that many students may have noticed on Guelph Transit buses. I have had concerns raised to me about the privacy of passengers, as well as questions regarding the use of these cameras, since they appear to be pointing toward bus passengers, and not the drivers.

I must admit that when I first heard about the cameras a year ago, I was a bit taken aback. However, I took the time to investigate what had happened and I found that cameras’ being put on the buses is not as bad as it might seem. These cameras will operate very differently than those that are in bank vestibules or lining the Yonge Street shopping district in Toronto. The bus cameras are for safety and that’s it.

In 2005, a Guelph bus driver was brutally assaulted late at night while operating the service and there have been other similar instances prior to that. This incident caused the late night bus service to the university to be suspended and led to negotiations between Guelph Transit and the union that represents city of Guelph bus drivers. An agreement was reached that would see all parties working to ensure the safety not only of the operators, but the passengers as well.

From the negotiations came a list of ten requirements that needed to be met before drivers would again operate the late night service. The requirements included various safety measures, among them the installation of security cameras on buses used for the late night runs. These cameras, now installed, are the ones causing some controversy.

In speaking to Guelph Transit about concerns of privacy, I was told that the cameras feed into a hard drive which is located onboard the bus itself. This hard drive records date and time for footage, and according to Steve Sarifinovski, supervisor of schedule and service planning for Guelph Transit, will only be looked at “if an incident occurs”.

There are cameras on the buses which face the driver and the rest of the passengers. Guelph Transit says that these cameras are not just for the safety of the drivers, but also the passengers, which are largely students. They have confirmed that the cameras do not feed into a screen that is being watched, and that they only feed into the aforementioned backup hard drive. I had noticed myself that it seemed the cameras are only facing passengers but on closer inspection and after discussing with Sarifinovski, it came to my attention that indeed there are cameras on the ceiling of the bus which face the driver.

It is my personal hope that these cameras will help with the safety of the late night buses, which always tend to be quite rowdy and crowded on certain nights of the week. I have been answering concerns from students, and I hope that students will continue to come to me if they are concerned about the cameras on the buses. The bottom line is that the bus drivers as well as the passengers need to have their safety concerns put first.

The recent installation of the cameras has ensured that we will once again be able to have a late night service with Guelph Transit. This service will begin on Sunday February 25th and will run until and including Friday April 20th. In the meantime, the late night bus service will continue with Denny’s Bus Lines.

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  1. Posted by: on Jan 16, 2007 @ 6:36pm

    Well now that there's one bus to service the city now, I couldn't care less about driver safety.

  2. Posted by: Bre Walt on Jan 17, 2007 @ 12:38pm

    Hi Alex,

    Your comment makes no sense to me. There is way more than one bus servicing the city. Please email me at [email protected] to clarify what you mean.


  3. Posted by: on Jan 17, 2007 @ 8:15pm

    I'm sorry, my sarcasm might not have gone through. What I mean to say I can't even get a bus after waiting 30 minutes for it out in the cold. I like how the city once again marks another smart decision by reducing the number of busses running. The 52 bus, route of Guelph's student "ghetto", becomes full at half the route causing it to go straight to the university. As far as I'm concerned, that money should have went to actually maintaining the POSTED route and times. This goes beyond feeling sorry for Guelph Transit, this is a joke. The city can't maintain schedualed times or their routes anymore.

    /Staff note: this post has been edited to eliminate expletives aimed at the drivers. It's not their fault man, they don't draw the routes./

  4. Posted by: j on Jan 19, 2007 @ 4:13pm

    They've reduced the number of buses? This is ridiculous. The drivers' union has really taken this too far. One driver was attacked a year ago and the union is still complaining as if they working for the TTC (which has something like ~600 attacks per year). Don't get me wrong, I'm all for driver safety, but these cameras and 'demands' are a waste of money.

    That money would've gone to much better use on the #52 route as Alex suggested. It is consistently full and I personally wouldn't mind seeing it split up into smaller, separate routes. A lot of routes need work actually, the #55 doesn't run on weekends, the #9 is literally NEVER on time (save the early morning hours) and is generally 10-15 minutes late always.

    The point is that Guelph Transit has a lot of issues and driver safety is definitely not as big a problem as they make it seem sometimes.

  5. Posted by: Gonzalo on Jan 19, 2007 @ 4:52pm

    I'm not by any means an expert on this, but I doubt you can say "the money would've gone to much better use" increasing the frequency of buses or creating new routes. The cost of installing cameras, even on each and every city bus (which isn't the case, no by a long shot), is peanuts compared with the logistics and cost of putting say 10 more buses in the street every day (which would be what, 1 more 52 per hour? that doesn't improve things much). Two different things, and they should be approached sepparately.

  6. Posted by: on Jan 19, 2007 @ 7:02pm

    Actually one more 52 an hour would help. If a 52 passes you by during the morning, which is frequent, the next one won't be for another 30 minutes based on the way things are going. Or waiting at the UC after you're done school, the next one is again 30 minutes away. But all smartass-ery aside, this whole argument of "you're too mean on the bus drivers" is bullshit. They're doing a job and being paid, not driving you around like mom used to do as a favour. I don't get why people ooh and ahh over bus drivers in this town, but then again I know most haven't seen one in their life before and they hold it with high regard.

  7. Posted by: Bre Walt on Jan 19, 2007 @ 7:38pm

    I have spent the last week compiling about 3,000 complaints about the busses. In speaking with Guelph Transit today, they are proposing to City Council that they be given more money, mid-budget season. They are hoping to get enough funds to add an extra 45 hours per week of service. This would amount to an extra bus on the 52 route. They are also looking into making some changes with the 55 and 51A route. I will send a mass email to all students with an update as soon as I have it.

    And driver safety is important. One may think we hold it in high regard. There are cameras around campus in order to allow for more student safety. If we deserve the utmost in safety measures, why should late night bus drivers deserve any less? It is a matter of respect.

    Bre Walt
    CSA Local Affairs Commissioner

  8. Posted by: John L on Jan 20, 2007 @ 7:11pm

    Seeing as the buses are public places and there's a pretty limited expectation of privacy in any case I think the whole "privacy of passengers" thing is a stretch

  9. Posted by: ay on Jan 22, 2007 @ 12:15am

    Privacy shouldn't be a concern unless people are doing something wrong. Regular citizens who have nothing to hide should have no concerns if they are obey the law, only the criminals bastards that ruin everything require supervision and possibly some time in an institute.

    On the point that bus service is bad, its true. #52 has got to be the worst bus. Its way too bad that our tax dollars doesn't provide the service most people expect - i.e. on time service with available seating, or standing room.

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