A rash of recent attacks on transit workers sparked condemnation from MTA officials and union leaders, who pleaded with the public to help find several people accused of assaulting and robbing subway and bus staff.
At least four Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees have been at the receiving end of criminal abuse this month, including a conductor on a J train at Broad Street in Lower Manhattan, who was hit over the head with a bottle early Sunday morning, according to the NYPD.
On May 5, a Bx18 bus driver in the Bronx was beat up by a man and a woman on the sidewalk after the woman threw an unspecified liquid at her face.
And on Wednesday, four teens reached into a conductor’s cabin on an N train at Queens Plaza station and shoved him, before nabbing his keys and fleeing the station.
Another train conductor on a D train at Norwood-205 Street station in the Bronx was shoved to the ground by a guy on May 8.
“This needs to stop. We have families, everybody’s just trying to get you from point A to point B — that’s all we’re trying to do,” said Wilfredo Tineo, a 14-year bus operator, during a rally with the Transport Workers Union Local 100 outside an Inwood bus depot Wednesday.
Tineo recounted his own experience of a rider spitting in his face while he was driving on the same troubled Bx18 route in the Bronx almost a year ago last June.
“This is traumatizing, this is degrading, this is disgusting. It is just so much emotion, this is what we deal with,” he said. “It’s not the first time — and especially with that [Bx]18 it’s not the first time.”
There have been 23 assaults on MTA workers as of May 15, up from 16 the same time last year, according to NYPD.
MTA Chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber also called for the public’s help in identifying some of the attackers Wednesday afternoon.
“The NYPD has asked us to call attention to the fact that there are recently two major attacks on our workers,” he said. “Help us find these criminals.”
Union leaders called for more better protected cockpits that seal the driver from floor to ceiling, rather than the partially-open variety currently on buses that still leave the operators vulnerable to attackers.
Similar designs are already in places like London in the U.K.
Lieber said he was open to looking at new seating areas for the drivers.
“I’m prepared to look at all of that stuff… we’re in the bus-buying business, so we’re gonna look at all kinds of models,” he told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “But the key point is, our bus drivers shouldn’t have to worry about being attacked.”
The transit big and TWU reps also pushed the state legislature in Albany to pass a bill by Queens state Senator Leroy Comrie, that would upgrade crimes against transit workers like spitting to become a misdemeanor, as opposed to a violation.