MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The full Metropolitan Council is voting Wednesday on a plan to improve protection for Metro Transit bus drivers.
It’s their job to move customers around safely and on time. But sadly, for Metro Transit drivers, traffic is not their biggest trouble.
Physical assaults of drivers appear to be on the rise. A troublesome situation that is pushing demands for better driver protection.
“It’s a major step forward,” Ryan Timlin, president of the Local 1005, said.
The Amalgated Transit Union made driver safety a top issue in its last contract.
Since August 2017, management and union leaders have experimented with a variety of physical barriers to find the style that offers drivers the most protection.
Union President Timlin says the design they settled on is a Plexiglas enclosure. It gives drivers options on just how much protection they feel they need.
“You’re not going to have a one size fits all. But the majority of operators are happy, it gives them the option to have the door closed or not closed,” Timlin said.
“We tested out about five different models,” explains Metro Transit’s Deputy Chief of Bus Operations, Brian Funk.
The $1.1 million purchase will fund 450 of the barriers. When installed, the enclosures will offer driver protection for roughly two-thirds of the fleet.
“We hope this physical barrier keeps them safe, but more than anything it can provide a deterrent. That says to a person who might want to do harm, this isn’t the right person to mess with, to move on,” Funk said.
It’s not the total answer but most agree it is a start. A device to give drivers the protection they deserve, at a cost Metro Transit can afford.
Metro Transit mechanics will install the barriers, averaging roughly eight per week. That will mean the devices will be fully installed in some 600 busses within a year-and-a-half.
The Met Council is scheduled to vote on the barriers Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m.