23 June Update: Metro reports that more than 20 transit police officers rode about 40 buses from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday on the U5, U6, U8 and X2 routes. About half were in plain clothes. The officers issued six citations for various offenses and two warnings, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.
“We plan to continue this stepped-up effort to address bus operator concerns,” he said.
Original post: Attacks on three Metro bus operators in less than two weeks have prompted concern among drivers for their safety and a call for more transit police officers on their vehicles.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents more than 10,000 Metro employees, said the three incidents occurred on bus routes along the Minnesota Avenue corridor in Southeast, near the Capitol Heights Metro stop and along Benning Road NE.
At a Monday night town-hall meeting, bus drivers said they’re worried management isn’t responding to their concerns about radios and security cameras not working. Jack Requa, head of Metro’s bus service division, said Wednesday there are plans to install and replace cameras on buses and that he believes “98 percent” of the radios are okay. If radios are reported to be not working, he said, they are tested and fixed.
Dan Stessel, a Metro spokesman, said there are “more than a dozen” transit officers of the roughly 450 officers on the force assigned to the system’s bus division. He said Metro Transit Police officials plan to get input from representatives of the 2,400 bus drivers on where to deploy officers.
Still, bus drivers are concerned.
Carroll Thomas, who represents the Bladensburg division of Metro’s bus system as a shop steward and is an executive board member of Local 689, said there has been a rise in attacks on drivers. Metro reported in February that attacks on drivers accounted for a third of aggravated assualts in the transit system. Thomas said most of the “troubled” bus lines are typically east of the Anacostia River.
One incident occurred on the V7 bus route at the Minnesota Avenue Station, when roughly six young men entered a bus through the back door and the bus operator asked them to come to the front of the bus to pay, union officials said. The would-be passengers didn’t. Instead, they “jumped on him,” Thomas said, sending he driver to the hospital with “both eyes black and blue.” Thomas said the “drive camera” on the front windshield of the bus was not working and the incident was not recorded.
In another incident, a female bus driver asked a young woman on the U8 bus line at the Capitol Heights station to fold up her baby’s stroller. The passenger “cursed out” the driver, Thomas said, and rode the bus. The next day, the female passenger boarded the bus again and the operator asked her to fold up the stroller. The woman beat up the driver, Thomas said.
During the altercation, the driver hit the button for the driver’s camera and “some of the fight” was caught on the tape, Thomas said. The driver was taken to the hospital and later released, according to Thomas.
“You saw her verbally abuse her, spit on her and then jump on her,” Thomas said, noting that a man eventually pulled the woman off the driver. “You could hear the driver saying, ‘Get off of me. Let me go.’”
A third incident with a bus driver occurred on the X2 bus line along the H Street corridor in Northeast. A man boarded the bus and didn’t have the proper fare. When the driver spoke to him, the man “slugged him in the mouth and walked off the bus,” Thomas said. An ambulance came and treated the driver.
“All of these happened within a week and a half,” Thomas said. “We’ve meet with management and we’re asking for more police presence. We have to defend ourselves.”
Metro confirmed that the incidents happened but did not provide specific details. Stessel said no arrests were made in any of the incidents. The transit authority is considering installing plexiglass to protect its drivers, he said.
Follow me on twitter @postmetrogirl .