The MTA has begun the installation of new barriers on city buses to help cut down on attacks against drivers, which saw a 17 percent increase this year. NY1’s Tina Redwine filed the following report.
Marlene Bien-Aime is just one of the 84 drivers that Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials say were attacked on the job this year. That’s a 17 percent increase over last year.
“She hit me all over, on my head and on my back,” said Bien-Aime.
New protection is now being rolled out for drivers in the form of partitions on buses.
Union representative Frank Austin said it took more than a year of design and testing before the committee he co-chairs agreed to install one citywide.
“It makes me feel really good. As a bus operator, I know my colleagues will go to work and come home safely,” said Austin.
Austin co-chairs the Bus Operator Action Committee with New York City Transit's assistant chief of bus training Wayne Galante.
Galante said it took years to get to this point because there was no shield available that could resist being cut by a knife, was glare free and not too confining for drivers.
“This has involved developing the product with vendors and suppliers to meet the needs, work on the challenges,” said Galante. “You don't want to solve one problem and create another.”
Transit officials say there are three versions of the shield for each type of bus, costing from $1,800 to $3,800 each, and 121 buses have them now.
The MTA says more than 300 buses will have partitions installed by the end of the month and more than 500 shields are planned to be protecting drivers by the end of March.
Buses on high assault routes in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Upper Manhattan will get them first.
The MTA has also installed cameras on 207 buses, and 426 are supposed to get them by the end of May, with another 1,150 next year.
Transit says it's also improved how it trains drivers to defuse tensions with riders.
“Lessons learned here are being applied,” said Galante, “and we're certainly taking everything we think we can do to help the bus operator and put it into the training class.”