Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Friday, February 11, 2005

Washington DC Transit Workers Demand Safer Buses

Washington DC busdrivers are fed up with being attacked while driving their buses and they're not going to take any more. In response to demands from the D.C. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, to improve safety aboard Washington DC Metro buses, Metro has assigned transit police to ride along on some routes and is using canine units to sweep bus facilities.

Local 689 held a rally yesterday in front of Metro headquarters to bring public attention to the rising number of assaults against Metro employees.
The number of assaults on buses rose to 125 last year from 114 in 2003. There were 66 assaults on bus drivers last year compared with 46 in 2003, according to Transit Police statistics.


Rick Henzley, 52, a driver with 25 years on the job, said he was stabbed four times when he was jumped by three youths in 1980. He said being a bus driver now is worse than it was then.

On Tuesday evening, Hanson rode buses on the A and W lines through Southeast Washington, where drivers are having the most difficulty with assaults and vandalism, and witnessed an incident up close.

"The bus behind me got pelted with rocks," she said. "I'm disappointed in some citizens in this community who don't appreciate the services that these bus drivers provide."

Last year, 152 bus windows were shattered, 50 more than in 2003 and about 100 more than in 2002, according to police.
The union is demanding demanding secure garages, video cameras on every bus, more education for young people about the hazards of throwing rocks at drivers.

Only 100 of Metros 1400 buses are currently equipped with cameras. Metro has ordered 250 additional buses that are equipped with surveillance systems.
For now, Metro is relying on officers to step up patrols and increase their visibility, Hanson said.

Officers normally guarding the subways are taking the buses from station to station, an easy way to increase visibility, she said. "If something happens on the rail, they can jump off the bus and pop into the rail."

In the future, bus rides will be part of the training for police recruits, [Metro Transit Police Chief Polly]Hanson said.
The union promised to continue the protests every month until Metro addresses all of their concerns.

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