Fare row led to HSR spitting, city says
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.