OC Transpo is the urban transit service for the City of Ottawa and provides public transportation to nearly one million people in the National Capital Region. As one of North America’s safest transit systems, we are committed to making our service a secure and enjoyable experience for the thousands of people who rely on us to get to work, school or other activities every day.
OC Transpo provides a comprehensive service that includes:
- A conventional bus fleet of over 800 buses that are low-floor equipped and 100% wheelchair accessible;
- A light rail system known as the O-Train, which currently operates three trains on a citywide north-south line, with an additional 8 trains approved for deployment in 2014;
- Almost 50 kilometers of dedicated bus-only traffic lanes and Transitway system with priority traffic signal controls, accessible only to OC Transpo and emergency vehicles;
- Fourteen Park and Ride locations with over 3000 parking spaces available for commuters; and
- Para Transpo fleet of 91 vehicles that provides door-to-door service for people with disabilities.
With so many options available, OC Transpo is increasingly becoming a commuter choice within the City. On any given weekday, our Transit Operators provide excellent service to over 200,000 customers. We are committed to an environment that fosters mutual respect between our Transit Operators and customers.
Whether you’re traveling across the city, over provincial lines into the Gatineau region, or remaining in the downtown core, OC Transpo values the safety, security and peace of mind of its passengers as top priorities.
But we can’t do it alone.
Public transportation is an employee-passenger partnership that requires the active participation of both transit employees and passengers to ensure everyone’s safety and security. Think about it like this: if you are a regular user of transit, you know when things are right. You likely see the same faces every day and you may even know your driver. You know your bus stop and the route your bus follows on its regular schedule. You also know the average time your trip will take from start to finish. If you are alert and pay attention to what’s going on around you, you will surely be able to notice an unusual situation or suspicious behavior.
Consider the following:
For every one Transit Operator driving a bus or operating a train, there could be 60 passengers better situated to spot something out of the ordinary: a fight at the back of a crowded bus, for example, or a suspicious package left on a seat.
For every one Transit Supervisor monitoring service at a Transit Station, or five Transit Special Constables patrolling the Transitway, there could be thousands of people – waiting to catch a bus, walking home after a busy day or long commute – all potentially in a better position to spot something suspicious, dangerous or criminal in nature. A traffic accident, for example, a violent act, or a crime in progress: transit employees and passengers are often the first witnesses when something occurs on public transportation.
These are only a few examples that highlight the importance of keeping communication open and positive between transit employees and the public.
OC Transpo has many safety and security programs and features in place to safeguard transit employees, customers, and the public. One such example is the Transit Special Constable Program, part of the Transit Safety & Enforcement Unit at OC Transpo.
On April 2nd 2007, 39 OC Transpo Security Officers were sworn in as Special Constables. Since that time, ten additional Special Constable positions have been added to the force. Working in partnership with the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), Transit Special Constables are sworn peace officers and hold the powers of the police to enforce the Criminal Code of Canada, the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, the Liquor License Act, the Trespass to Property Act, and the Safe Streets Act, on or in relation to, all transit property and vehicles.
The Transit Special Constable Program is a 24/7 operation with the following mandate:
- Protect transit employees, customers and property;
- Preserve the peace;
- Prevent crime and offences;
- Promote public safety and awareness; and
- Help people in need of assistance.
To achieve this mandate, Transit Special Constables work in partnership with OPS and Emergency Services, in addition to the many internal branches at OC Transpo – the front line employees the public see, and can count on everyday to put out a safe and secure service.
Transit Law Special Constables work closely with Communications Officers, who operate out of the Transit Law Communications Center, the hub for all security operations at OC Transpo. Working to support the Transit Special Constables, Communications Officers monitor surveillance cameras, communicate real-time information to the Officers on the road, and dispatch assistance and resources like 911 Dispatch.
Operating out of an advanced facility, Communications Officers utilize over 450 surveillance cameras throughout the city to proactively observe, detect and prevent crime. The images captured by these cameras have been used to aide in solving crimes by numerous law enforcement agencies including the RCMP, OPS and CSIS. City Officials have attributed a 32% reduction in crime on Ottawa’s transit system to the Transit Special Constable Program and the advancements made to the Transit Law Communications Center.
The Communication Center receives more than 20,000 calls for service annually, and that number continues to rise all the time.
“We don’t attribute it to more crime,” says Program Manager and Chief Special Constable Kimberly Weston-Martin. “We attribute it to the fact that people feel more secure, and feel that somebody can do something about it now”.
Transit Special Constables also work with many community groups and outreach programs, such as Crime Stoppers, United Way and the Salvation Army; in addition to local school boards, university and college security forces, and many other security agencies around the city.
Through shared information with OPS, and other partners, Transit Special Constables are well informed and better able to anticipate safety and security issues and fulfill their mandate.
Another interesting safety and security feature employed at OC Transpo is Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). This approach – which uses concepts from urban planning, architectural design, social science and physical security – aims at reducing crime by making areas less appealing to criminals. According to the National Crime Prevention Institute, the proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime. OC Transpo supports this approach and has incorporated CPTED principles – both naturally occurring and engineered – into the use of space, lighting, sight lines and access points at transit properties and stations.
Additional safety and crime prevention initiatives at OC Transpo include:
- Transecure, a community watch program on wheels that provides a safe haven on any OC Transpo vehicle to people in distress, and encourages employees to actively look out for the community;
- Night Stop, a program featuring designated and well lit stops that are centrally located in stations and close to yellow emergency call boxes, and direct access pay phones, capable of reaching Emergency Services at no charge. After 9pm, these stops are used instead of regular bus stops at transit stations. For passengers not at stations, the Night Stop Program also includes special request stops – meaning, if you don’t feel safe getting off at your regular stop at night, you can request to be let off closer to your destination;
- Passenger Assistance Alarms, which provide customers on board articulated buses (60 foot, or double-long buses) a system to notify the Operator when there is an emergency at the back of the bus;
- Enhanced mobile communications, including a fleet 100% equipped with radio and GPS technology, so that every OC Transpo vehicle on the road can be accounted for, communicated with, and located quickly and easily; and
- Safety awareness campaigns for community groups and students, including Operation Lifesaver, a program designed to educate the hazards surrounding rail property and trains.
As of December 1st 2011, OC Transpo officially launched Transit Watch, a new safety and security awareness campaign. Currently in place in Calgary and Edmonton Transit, as well as numerous transit authorities in the United States, Transit Watch is the current best practice in transit safety and security initiatives, and is recognized across North America. Working in partnership with the Transecure Program, Transit Watch will bridge the gap between transit employees and the public in terms of providing awareness and information about noticing out of place objects or behavior, monitoring suspicious activity, and responding appropriately to potentially dangerous situations.
The Transit Watch message is simple: safety and security is everyone’s business.
The Transit Watch program embodies the employee-passenger partnership earlier described, and encourages the active participation of both transit employees, passengers, and the public to promote and maintain a safe and secure environment. In contributing to the security equation by providing thousands of extra eyes and ears, Transit Watch is a collaborative approach towards enhancing awareness, security and response, with an end goal of getting people involved, alert, informed, and prepared. And while it’s true that your bus or train Operator may not be able to see everything, everywhere, every time; as a passenger, you can, and should be aware of what to do in any situation.
In the near future, OC Transpo will be implementing Designated Waiting Areas (DWAs) as a pilot project to enhance security at transit stations. As part of this project, five transit stations across the city will be chosen to house the new DWAs. Incorporating principals of CPTED, DWAs will be located in accessible areas, sheltered from the elements, equipped with increased lighting, and clearly signed and identified. Similar to the Night Stop program, the DWAs will be in close proximity to yellow emergency call boxes and/or direct access pay phones.
Currently in place in Toronto, Waterloo, and many other transit companies across North America; like Transit Watch, the concept of a DWA is easily recognizable. More importantly, DWAs provide a solution to one of the main issues with the existing Night Stop program: crime doesn’t only happen after nine.
OC Transpo supports the message that safety and security is not something to think about once and forget – it must be taken into consideration in everything we do – get involved, because transit safety is your business. CS
For more information about OC Transpo, please check our website at: www.octranspo.com