Crimes committed against city bus drivers are on the rise, but tucked into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's new contract with the Transport Workers Union are a couple of provisions designed to protect drivers from unruly passengers. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
Most riders just hop on and pay the fare, but city bus drivers say some passengers push back in a crude way.
"They believe that this is a way to get through to bus operators, to spit on them," said Whitfield Gibson of TWU Local 100. "It's not a good thing. It's not a clean thing."
However, bus drivers are getting some protection thanks to a provision in the transit union's new contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The MTA started installing partitions after the 2008 stabbing of a driver in Brooklyn, but so far, less than half of the MTA's 4,700 local buses have the shields. Under the contract, they'll be on every local bus in the fleet within three years.
"They can't actually be in your face anymore," said bus driver John Hodges. "So therefore, if somebody would want to sneak and throw something at you, they can't do it."
The contract also gives bus drivers another kind of protection: DNA swab kits, which will be added to every bus within three months after the deal is approved.
"This way, if we get spat on, then we take the swab kit and we take it and we give it to the cops, and in this way, if someone has a record, they can arrest that person for spitting on us," said Cathy Davis-Baker of TWU Local 100.
The MTA said that through last month, there have been 89 assaults and 1,199 cases of harassment against bus drivers this year, up from 75 and and 1,111 in the same time frame in 2013.
"It's really demeaning. It's really low," said bus driver Calvin Johnson. "It's really frustrating to have to deal with that, someone spitting at you."
How much is all of this going to cost? On average, the MTA says it spends $3,000 per bus to install driver partitions. As for the DNA kits, they don't have a price tag on those yet.
Many drivers, though, say it's money well-spent.
"I think it's a great beginning, but there's other stuff that transit could do, and the city as a whole," said bus driver Faizie Ghanny. "Put a cop, sporadically, on a bus."
One thing the MTA is doing is making sure every new bus that comes into service is equipped with security cameras. Only about 1,500 buses have them so far.