It’s really not that hard to pay your fare, sit in your seat, and let the bus operator take you where you want to go. Yet in recent weeks, a number of New Yorkers have made different, more dickish choices, like stabbing the driver of a Bx41 in the hand with a pocket knife. Or punching the driver of an M14 in the face, stealing her purse, and running away.
These days, the drivers seem to have gotten their fill of being robbed, stabbed, punched, and generally menaced while trying to do their jobs. They’d probably really rather you didn’t do it anymore. And the union that represents them, TWU Local 100, wants the MTA to work a little harder to protect the operators.
The main issue here is the installation of protective partitions in front of the driver’s seat, similar to the ones you see in cabs, which would offer drivers a little physical distance from their passengers. Only a few buses have them already — around 15 percent of the MTA’s 4600-strong fleet last year . TWU 100 says the MTA has been slow to install them because they’re expensive; in the meantime, Clarence Johnson, a driver slashed in the Bronx, says the partition aboard his bus helped prevent his assailant from stabbing him in the face.
There’s been legislation introduced before to mandate that the partitions be installed in every bus, but it usually seems to get referred to a committee and quietly left to die. This year, state Senator Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) introduced a broader bill, requiring not just partitions, but that the GPS systems on board each bus be synced up with their panic buttons. You know, so when a driver is getting mugged or stabbed and hits that panic button, someone can tell where she is. At the moment, hitting the alarm doesn’t convey the location of the bus to the MTA or first responders, increasing the time it takes help to arrive.
Klein argued that the cost of installing these safety measures would be “fully offset by savings from reduced workers compensation costs and reduction in absences from work due to attacks on bus operators.” When the session ended, the bill had been referred to the Committee on Cities, where it will languish until next session.
The TWU’s not willing to wait that long. They’re rallying today at 4:30 p.m. outside the MTA headquarters at 130 Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn. The TWU is also urging drivers to stop the bus if they think they or a passenger are about to get attacked. Local organizer J.D. Patafio told New York 1, “I’m not gonna have an operator driving a bus while they’re being assaulted or abused. We’re going to stop the bus, because that is the way attention is going to be made.”
You heard the man. Stabbing your driver is not only criminal, but it’ll make you late. So cut it out.