Many residents have reached out to my office regarding the current transit safety and security issues, especially in light of recent attacks occurring in transit stations. The number one priority of Council over the next year should be ensuring Edmontonians feel safe participating in their own communities and it’s been incredibly disappointing to see the situation devolve to this point. What we are seeing is unacceptable and, while the safety issues are not exclusive to Edmonton, I want to share with you the steps that Council and City Administration have taken to move towards a positive change.
This past February, Council unanimously approved the Transit Safety and Security Plan, with additional funding reallocated as required to ensure that plan goals could be met. In the time since, City Administration has been actively recruiting additional Transit Peace Officers and a Director of Transit Safety to oversee the strategy, as well as building additional Community Outreach Transit Teams. Because of the difficult nature of the work that COTT does, this recruitment has been particularly challenging, but Administration continues to work hard to remove any barriers to recruitment.
In alignment with these moves, EPS has increased its own presence on transit, with extended coverage hours, combined discipline teams, and dedicated support overnight and at the end of service when doors are locked. Additional future measures include opioid response teams as a result of the increased opioid poisoning health crisis and the remainder of transit washrooms being reopened with increased monitoring.
Lastly, City Administration has committed to their Community Safety and Well-being Strategy, which — if approved by Council — will compel the City to work towards making us Canada’s safest city by 2030. As acknowledged by the City Manager, there are lofty goals within that strategy, but we need ambitious goals to drive us towards creative solutions. Our economic viability as a city is too closely tied to livability, to our sense of safety and well-being, and I believe if we are to fulfill the promise that we make to the people that invest their time and capital in our city, we must make this our number one priority. I am elated to see this strategy come to fruition and I look forward to putting my full support behind it.
Recognizing that all of these measures will not have an immediate effect, I am hearing anecdotally that riders are seeing small improvements. As a transit rider myself, I have personally noticed some changes and I remain cautiously optimistic that those improvements will continue. At present, ETS is scheduled to return to Council on May 24 to report on the status of the Transit Safety Plan.
I know that many folks rely on transit as their means to move around our city, and the violence and disorder we have seen is unacceptable. While I’ve outlined what the city is doing to reverse this trend, I’m open to hearing any ideas you may have for improving safety on our transit service. Please continue to report any safety concerns to ETS and EPS and, as always, my office is available to help in any way that you need. Sarah