State lawmakers want safety partitions that are already in nearly half of standard local buses to protect drivers working in the entire fleet.
The state Senate this week passed a bill from Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx to require these partitions on about 5,700 buses and hold the MTA to a five-year timeline. The agency said all of the approximately 4,600 local buses will get partitions earlier than that-by 2017-though not on express buses where assaults on drivers are uncommon.
"Sometimes it doesn't happen because of funding issues," said Klein spokeswoman Candice Giove. "Now it will be required by law."
Getting these barriers installed, at a cost of $3,000 each, by January 2017 was a provision included with the Transport Workers Union Local 100's labor deal with the MTA, according to the union.
TWU spokesman Jim Gannon said the bill, now pending in an Assembly committee, would go "over and above" the deal by covering bus drivers that the union does not represent. He also stressed the need for a legislative mandate to ensure bus drivers are protected.
"This doesn't allow them, the MTA, to move the bar, so to speak," Gannon said.
Last year, there were 99 assaults on bus drivers and 1,175 instances of harrassment, including spitting, reported, according to the MTA.
As of early May, 2,100 buses had barriers, the MTA said. Additionally, all buses will have security cameras by 2017. The MTA said it also integrated a silent emergency alarm with GPS equipment, another safety measure mandated in Klein's bill.
"We are already fully committed to using the technology outlined in the bill to protect our bus operators," MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.