I have been using the Edmonton Transit System (ETS) as my main form of transportation for about 15 years. In that time, I have noticed the vandalism on the LRT and buses has increased.
15 years ago, it wasn’t so bad. A spilled coffee slipped from the owner’s hand by mistake, or an empty bag of chips the owner was too lazy to take with them. No one expects an LRT train or bus to be in pristine condition, but it wasn’t bad back then. Now there are countless messes, mysterious wet spots on seats, discarded lighters, and some things you would see in an abandoned train car in a video game.
I remember there used to be vending machines at Century Park and the University station that would act as a quick snack for the hungry commuter who couldn’t get breakfast. Sometime in June of 2020 when I returned from my COVID-19 vacation, I began commuting back to work. I noticed the vending machines kept getting smashed in, repaired and then smashed in again. All the contents were stolen; someone hungry did this. Six months later, they were gone for good. That was the start of the increase in ETS vandalism.
I recall countless tales of vandalism on the buses and LRTs, but what is causing it? That is a hard thing to say. Is it a lack of security? No, because security guards stand around stations watching things happen. To be honest, I think it’s a lack of enforcement. I don’t blame the security guards for just standing around and doing nothing; they are paid little and it is not worth risking their lives over trying to stop someone from damaging things.
In the past few weeks, I have noticed more peace officers at various times patrolling–someone that actually has the power to arrest vandals. I have also seen a decline in vandalism. It is not perfect by far; it could just be a slow time for vandalism, so only time will tell if they are still making a difference. But is this a band-aid solution to the problem?
Recently, a man caused over $5000 in damages to a city bus with an icepick as the driver went to the washroom. Luckily no one was hurt. “I don’t care about the graffiti, but I’m more scared about the violence. Last semester was worse for trash on the LRT,” a second-year NAIT student said, moments before a fight broke out on the LRT between two other passengers.
One of the many issues behind the vandalism is not enough support from the province. They are the ones behind funding social services needed to address homelessness and addictions.
The time of studies is over; the provincial and municipal governments need to step up and begin enacting programs to curb this recent surge of vandalism. Call your local city councillor or MLA as they won’t do anything until you let them hear your voice. Don’t forget to vote in May.
Have you noticed an increase in vandalism on the LRT and bus system?