Cancel the City of Winnipeg's RFP for a "transit security plan"

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We're calling on the City of Winnipeg to cancel its request for proposal (RFP) seeking “professional consulting services for Winnipeg Transit security plan study” and redirect funding that would be allocated to this study and resulting policy towards reducing and eventually abolishing transit fares.

The RFP, which is soliciting submissions until January 31, indicates that the desired study should include an analysis of transit security in six similarly sized Canadian cities, consider the expansion of powers for security forces, and conduct discussions with “key stakeholders.” The named stakeholders include the Winnipeg Police and Winnipeg Police Association, with no mention of transit riders or communities.

We’re deeply concerned about both the content of the proposed study and the apparent lack of community input outlined by the RFP. Moving towards more security on buses is a dangerous and costly decision that further entrenches systems of oppression instead of pursuing policies that improve transportation access for all and actually reduce risk of assaults for transit workers.

Increasing policing of public transit riders will not address the many factors that have led to security concerns, but it will lead to racial profiling and the escalation of conflict on transit. A 2016 poll of Amalgamated Transit Union drivers cited fare disputes as the result of 73.6 percent of driver assaults. Similarly, former ATU 1505 president John Callahan said about assaults against transit operators that the “vast majority involve a fare dispute.” The obvious policy response to such facts should be to reduce fares with the eventual goal of abolishing them, like demonstrated in cities including Kansas City, Missouri, and Dunkirk, France. Instead, the City of Winnipeg just raised fares by another five cents, to $3.

People who are poor or precariously housed will be disproportionately impacted by the increasing securitization of public transit, which will discourage access during a time of heightened need and already restricted access due to fare increases. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG called on governments to ensure safe and affordable transit and transportation services in all Indigenous communities, towns and cities. This RFP is yet another example of the City of Winnipeg ignoring the hard work of the inquiry and its contributors to describe the real roots of vulnerability to violence, including: increasing policing, and lack of affordable and reliable transportation.

The city has a choice in this moment: to direct public resources toward escalating the hostile, dehumanizing, exclusionary pressures on poor people who rely heavily on public services and public spaces to survive, or to direct those same resources toward relieving some of this pressure and building a better city for all by funding free, reliable, and comprehensive public transit.