Bus drivers demand safety measures from MTA
Bus drivers Thursday told their stories of assault, getting spat on and threatened while on the job at a rally to call for full partitions, more transit officers and stiff mandatory sentences.
Of the 5,600 buses in the system, 1,331 have full partitions -- a woefully low number to bus drivers who wanted safety improvements following the stabbing death of driver Edwin Thomas in 2008. There are 1,210 buses with cameras.
"That is a travesty," said JP Patafio, a vice president at Transport Workers Union Local 100. There were 51 assaults on a bus driver reported this year through July 7, a 6% uptick compared to the same period last year, which saw 48 attacks, according to the MTA. In 2009, there were 126.
Patafio told bus drivers at the rally to take their bus out of service if they feel threatened by a passenger, then report it to police, which is MTA protocol.
Stacy Goldberg, who rides a route on Church Avenue in Brooklyn, said that while she has never been spat on or hit, the partial partition on her bus gives her little comfort when she feels threatened.
"I don't feel safe. You can still reach around," she said.
Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman, said more buses will be outfitted with cameras and bus operator shields.
"We place particular emphasis on dispatching buses equipped with both cameras and barriers (as feasible) on routes with the highest potential of assaults," he said in a statement.
Assemblyman Walter Mosley of Brooklyn, who attended the rally, is the sponsor of a state bill to mandate driver partitions and a GPS system to notify the MTA where an assault has occurred.
"We don't want to get to the point where someone loses their life," he said.