Fare row led to HSR spit­ting, city says

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Hamil­ton po­lice and the city say a dis­pute over a fare led to threats by a pas­sen­ger who al­legedly spat in an HSR driver’s face Tues­day.

Wit­nesses told the city the in­ci­dent be­gan as a “mi­nor fare dis­pute” on an Up­per Gage bus, Hamil­ton’s tran­sit di­rec­tor Deb­bie Dalle Ve­dove said in an email Fri­day.

Dalle Ve­dove said the pas­sen­ger be­came “ver­bally abu­sive,” threat­ened the op­er­a­tor and spat in her face. “Our op­er­a­tor re­sponded with a ver­bal and phys­i­cal re­ac­tion of her own.”

Pho­tos of the driver hold­ing onto the hair of a fe­male pas­sen­ger were posted to so­cial me­dia. Wit­nesses al­lege the driver was rude and grabbed the pas­sen­ger’s hair.

The city “does not con­done the ex­er­cise, at­tempt or threat of any phys­i­cal force or ha­rass­ment in any work­place,” Dalle Ve­dove said.

Mak­ing sure cus­tomers pay the fare is a “vi­tal part” of a driver’s job, she added.

Wit­nesses told The Spec­ta­tor the driver be­came up­set when two pas­sen­gers didn’t have the re­quired photo ID to show with their bus passes. One of them, Sierra John­son, said the driver told her to put 30 cents in the fare box and yelled at her to “sit the (ex­ple­tive) down.”

Af­ter miss­ing a stop, the driver stopped and got off the bus, John­son said. That’s when the spit­ting and hair-pulling al­legedly hap­pened, po­lice said.

“The driver grabbed the fe­male by the hair to hold her from get­ting away. Af­ter sev­eral sec­onds, the driver let go of the hair and the fe­male left the area be­fore po­lice ar­rived,” po­lice said.

Dalle Ve­dove noted since July 2014, there have been 88 assaults on HSR driv­ers with 34 stem­ming from fare dis­putes.

“It is re­gret­table that our op­er­a­tors are oc­ca­sion­ally sub­ject to be­hav­iour such as this and we are com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing their dili­gent ef­forts in ex­e­cut­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

On Fri­day, Dalle Ve­dove said the city and po­lice had “thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated” the in­ci­dent.

To help en­sure safety, HSR will start in­stalling cam­eras on all buses later this month, she said.

The city plans to equip ev­ery bus by the end of the year.

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