Riders question effectiveness of new Greyhound security
Saira Peesker, cp24.com
Published Tuesday, January 13, 2009 3:34PM EST
Greyhound says it has beefed up security checks of passengers boarding its buses, but the random nature of the new measures has left travellers wondering if the carrier is doing enough.
The coach line announced big changes last month to deter violence aboard its coaches, saying it planned to use metal-detecting wands on passengers, conduct carry-on baggage searches and only allow purses and lap-top bags on the passenger section of the bus.
The measures were initiated after a Greyhound passenger was stabbed and beheaded by his seat-mate during a bus ride through southern Manitoba in late July.
Less than two months later, another man was stabbed aboard a Greyhound bus in northern Ontario.
The new procedures, put in place in western Canada on Dec. 9, were rolled out in Ontario on Dec. 15.
However, numerous passengers who have travelled through Toronto's main bus terminal since that date say they have seen no or little sign of the heightened security.
"I have never gone through a metal detector or any checks like that," says Abdullah Samadi, a student at Trent University who travels to Peterborough regularly.
"After hearing several news stories on the TV, you want those measures to be taken by the Greyhound to get rid of those accidents. I am a frequent traveller and I have never been through a metal detector -- but it's definitely a good idea."
Bus rider Serge Mercier says he has never encountered any problems bringing his bags on board.
"There is no security for people," he says. "You can take anything on the bus."
A Greyhound employee who spoke with CP24.com said he had seen no evidence of a coordinated security effort at Toronto's main terminal, Ontario's busiest bus station.
Other Toronto terminal employees approached by CP24.com said they weren't authorized to speak to the media.
However, Greyhound spokesperson Eric Wesley, based in Texas, said the new measures aren't meant to be carried out exactly the same in each location -- but that they have been implemented in Ontario.
"We do the hand-wanding at some locations and not at others," he said in a phone interview. "That way, nobody knows exactly when and where it's going to take place."
He said Greyhound is not publicly identifying locations where extra security has been added "to protect the program's effectiveness."
Of the frequent travellers who spoke with CP24 at Toronto's bus terminal, only one reported seeing a metal-detection wand in use at the station, and said that was only on one occasion.
Jim Higgs, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union section that represents western Canada's bus drivers, says he's surprised to hear how little Torontonians have seen of the new measures.
In his home city, Calgary, passengers travelling on most schedules are being checked for metal and all large baggage is being stowed underneath the passenger compartment.
He says bags searches have lessened the rate of alcohol-related incidents while travelling, as alcohol is not allowed in the passenger compartment.
Higgs says his union is "satisfied" with how security is being handled in western Canada, provided that Greyhound continues to expand the procedures to more routes.
A security expert consulted by CP24.com said random searches won't catch everyone who has poor intentions.
"Those random checks definitely do not make you safer (if you are) travelling on a bus that doesn't get checked," said the source, who did not want to be named, but who has handled security for the Canadian National Exhibition, numerous large events and several big-name celebrities.
It is impossible to handle security exactly the same everywhere due to the vast array of different types of stops along Greyhound routes, says Wesley.
"We couldn't do it in every single location," he says. "We have too many rural stops."