Not so protective services

On an ordinary Sunday afternoon, some random passengers and I were on the C-Train. Calgary Transit’s protective services, the transit police, to abuse a term, embarked and disembarked, audibly disappointed that almost everyone had paid their fares.

On their way out, they passed a pair of out-of-town teenage girls, a woman in her forties, and an altered and intoxicated man wielding a shredded umbrella. Fareless, he constantly harassed other passengers for the location of the Kensington Legion, calling the girls "douche bags" and other creative profanities for not responding positively to his query.

The woman in her forties eventually pressed the help button, drawing the attention of the train operator. At the next stop, the operator watched the drunkard depart the train and approach passengers on the other side of the platform. She asked seriously: "Do you want me to call protective services?"

Well no, actually. We want to invite you to a spot of afternoon tea and crumpets with the altered guy at the Legion, and for you to forget all your training about dealing with dangerous passengers.

That evening on another train with three different members of protective services, a young officer, to abuse another term, was delighted that a SAIT and a University of Calgary student had not yet obtained U-Pass stickers. The young officer called the older officers with offensive but proud language, to explain the "zero tolerance policy" on fare non-payment–a policy which, if it exists, was not followed earlier in the day with an older gentleman who claimed to have left his pass on the nightstand. They explained their policy with undeserved bravado and language inappropriate for this paper (and human-to-human conduct in general), and disembarked a crowd of fareless youngsters and the two students with a measure of happiness.

Pads of blank summons at the ready, they sought to collect on the veritable bonanza of transit fines for the "cash-strapped" city coffers.

Two stops later, a heated discussion about the price of clothing between gothic high-school students and trendy high-school students turned physical. The noise of the argument and physical contact should have aroused the operator’s attention as it did the frightened passengers,’ and the incident should have been dealt with at the next station.

But as the car, now devoid of other passengers, finally pulled into the last station, protective services officers were nowhere near the conflict, though their unoccupied vehicle was quite visible by the exit where passengers leaving the station were being slowed by something.

Never in six hours had I seen as much potential for passenger endangerment on public vehicles. I can accept that protective services may have been short-staffed that day and unable to respond optimally to passenger safety issues, but they were able to issue fines effectively.

This needs to change if they are to bear the protective services name. If it doesn’t, maybe I’ll toss my U-Pass out the window if ever I need help on a C-Train. An unpaid fare will surely draw somebody’s attention.

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