Management & Operations

Transit systems coping with spike in violence against bus drivers

Posted on May 6, 2013

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Transit systems, such as San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit, provide bus drivers that have been subject to violence from riders with counseling, legal support and flexible reassignment.
Transit systems, such as San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit, provide bus drivers that have been subject to violence from riders with counseling, legal support and flexible reassignment.
While research shows that transit systems across the U.S. are seeing an increase in violence against bus drivers, many are taking preventive actions, such as training, and providing assistance to operators in the aftermath of an incident.

The Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), University of South Florida, is collecting data on these incidents, primarily from the National Transit Database (NTD), and conducting a survey of U.S. public transportation systems. The NTD data shows assaults are on the rise, with injuries to transit riders sustained during an assault being the most prevalent, followed by injuries to transit vehicle operators, according to a CUTR report.

The research also reviews return-to-duty procedures implemented by transit agencies for bus operators who have experienced assault or other traumatic events while on duty, said Lisa Staes, director of transit safety and workforce development programs, CUTR, who is presenting a paper on the topic at the APTA Bus & Paratransit conference on Monday, May 6.

Data collected from the NTD focuses on major incidents that resulted in a fatality, an injury that requires immediate medical assistance away from the scene, or involved property damage or evacuation. Looking at only those assaults reported to NTD’s safety and security form 40 for major incidents, the linear trend from 2008 to 2012 is up, Staes said.

“There were 119 injuries to transit vehicle operators in 2008. From that point to 2012 there’s some variability. In 2012 there were 124,” she added.

Despite the slight increase in bus operator assaults reflected in the NTD data, the industry is telling a different story through CUTR’s survey, Staes said, since incidents, such as a bus operator being struck, spat upon or otherwise harassed, are not captured as specific data points by NTD data.
“We’re hearing from transit agencies that the trends are much greater than that reflected in NTD,” she added.

However, CUTR is working with large transit agencies that have the resources to track these types of incidents to identify the policies and procedures they have in place to help operators deal with these events.

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