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I knew it would only be a matter of time before this debate got started.

In the wake of
the Greyhound murder
last week, there have been
calls
for the introduction of security checks, the emphasis being on metal detectors that people must pass through before they’re allowed to board a bus. The idea seems to be picking up some decent support, most notably from the union representing Canada’s Greyhound drivers.

I’m all for protecting people where possible and practical, but because of the way the bus system works, I don’t see how anything like what’s being suggested could be implemented.

The major problem is that most bus stops aren’t terminals, and there’s no practical way to set up checkpoints at gas stations or on the side of the road. An argument can be made for requiring that pick-ups only be made at locations with terminals, but to me, that logic is flawed. Yes it might stop a few people from being injured or killed during the ride, but that’s only because there would be no busses left. Eliminating non-station stops would surely run the bus companies out of business. If you live in a small town and would have to either drive or take a train to meet your bus, why take the bus? The current system functions as well as it does because it hits under-serviced areas like no other mode of transportation short of the family car can, and that’s not something the companies can afford to mess with.

As for scanning people who board at the terminals, I’m fine with that, but there’s no point if a good portion of the ridership can avoid inspection simply by living in the sticks.

The only other option would be to have the driver personally wand everybody and search their stuff as they board, but that would add far too much extra time to every trip, and who’s to say that the drivers would want to assume the extra risk or take the training that would surely be necessary without the pay increase that should come from doing 2 demanding jobs? There’s also something else to consider. Let’s pretend for a minute that everybody gets along and a sizable pay raise is agreed to. Who do you suppose is paying the freight? Technically it’s Greyhound, but where does the money they use come from? That’s right, you and I. Costs would go up, rider numbers would go down, and then we’re right back where we started.

The main question that needs to be answered is how much of an actual need is there for new protections? Is the number of bus attacks such that we’re in crisis? I don’t think so. This isn’t the first time something has gone wrong on a bus and it won’t be the last, but the same can be said about every other place in the world. Unexpected harm comes to people in all kinds of places, but how many of them require a weapons inspection? People have been killed in malls, trains, post offices, restaurants, their own homes, the street, the list goes on and on. No matter what, nobody will ever be perfectly safe. It’s a design flaw in existence, and there’s only so much that can and should be done.

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