CTA Bus Drivers Demand More Security Following Attack

Bernie Tafoya
September 24, 2018 - 12:30 pm

WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- CTA bus drivers are starting a campaign to push for tougher action against people who attack them on-the-job. A few dozen of them showed up Monday for a court hearing for two women charged with attacking a driver.

CTA bus driver Melissa Barker said she was attacked several weeks ago. She said one young woman came up to her and, "she acts like she wants to fight me. I ask her to leave. She doesn't. She pours tequila on me. She throws a bottle behind the shield. Her friend comes up, pours liquor in my face." 

Barker also said she was also hit with "a milk crate."

Now, the two suspects who had first been charged with misdemeanors, now face felony charges. Barker is pleased and said, "it sends out a message that, you cannot attack us and get away with it."

Keith Hill, the president of the bus drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 241, said 12-to-15 drivers are attacked physically every month.  And, he said, drivers are verbally attacked at least 10 times a day.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said attacks are relatively low but said, "one assault is one too many."

Steele said the CTA will continue to push for the "highest penalties possible" against people who attack bus drivers and train operators.

Still, Steele said, "assaults against operators of CTA buses are very rare. We have hundreds of thousands of miles of trips each year and the number of assaults is comparatively low."

"It’s really outrageous that a small number of people think that it’s okay to act disrespectfully toward or assault our operators," he said.

WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

Keith Hill said shields that separate drivers from bus drivers are a deterrent against attacks, but he said, "we’re pushing to have a new shield put in place that encloses the driver, totally enclosed with a window that goes up and down."

The bus driver union leader said drivers will continue to put pressure on prosecutors to make sure felony charges are leveled against suspects and will monitor cases in which drivers are attacked. 

"Oct. 10, we have a sister who was sexually assaulted on a bus. We will be at 26th and California in numbers to make sure justice is served," he said.

Meanwhile, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said another technological security feature is going to be tested later this year. He said some buses will be equipped with live screens that display to passengers what is being recorded on the buses' security cameras.

Union leader Hill does not believe the current plans for that screen will be a factor towards increased security because of its placement over the driver instead of in a place more passengers would be able to see.