Transit Union fighting to make buses safer after rise in attacks against drivers

Updated: Dec. 13, 2019 at 8:21 AM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - With an increase of assaults against bus drivers, drivers and union representatives are speaking out and pushing for laws to make routes safer.

Ronnie Bennett, 69, who is a Metro bus driver for SORTA, tells FOX19 NOW that he is still recovering and hasn’t been able to return to work after a man attacked him during his shift last year in June on Central Parkway.

Bennett says the attack started when an oncoming passenger didn’t have the correct change for his bus fare. When Bennett asked the man to step off the bus, he says the man started punching him. The man was pushed off the off bus, but he came back for more.

Bennett says he is still in pain due to nerve damage.

“He hit me in the jaw and he ended up breaking my dentures and broke my glasses, cut my mouth on the inside, hurt my neck and back," he said.

The other passengers had to jump in and pull the man off of Bennett.

Marcellus Thomas was arrested and charged with assault.

Now, many Metro bus drivers and the Amalgamated Transit Union are pushing for lawmakers to do more to keep buses safe.

“There’s no respect for the bus driver anymore. We serve the public every single day. We haul thousands of people. With all of these people you have, there’s one out of the whole bus all day long that will give you a problem and when that problem arises it’s pretty serious,” Bennett said.

The union says from 2015 to 2017, more than 16 Cincinnati bus drivers have been assaulted during their shift.

The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act, H.R. 1139 and S. 436, is currently moving through Congress which would give more protection for bus drivers across the nation by requiring transit agencies to install physical barriers at the front of the bus to protect drivers.

“They’re trying to get the plastic guards right there where people can’t throw coffee on you, spit on you or hit you,” Bennett said.

“Our ultimate goal is our operators come to work, make a good living and benefits and go home safe. Not to get injured or hurt,” Troy Miller, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627, said.

Miller said the union is continuing their fight to get the bill passed, but so far, Cincinnati lawmakers have not signed off on the bill.

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