The head of New York MTA’s bus operations Craig Cipriano joined with senior officials from the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and bus operators who have recently been assaulted to condemn the rise in recent attacks on MTA bus operators and call for swift passage of legislation that would increase penalties for assaults on transit workers. The announcement came a week after a B15 bus operator was violently assaulted while driving, one of several disturbing attacks against bus operators in recent months.
At the event, the MTA and TWU Local 100 reiterated their shared commitment to improving worker safety and applauded Governor Cuomo for his leadership introducing important legislation to strengthen penalties for assaults against transit workers. Under the new measure, offenders charged with aggravated harassment, including spitting on transportation workers, would be subject to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison. Spitting is currently only a violation punishable by fine.
The legislation would also expand the list of assaulted workers whose attackers may be punished with Class D felonies, which have a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Class D felony protection currently covers train and bus operators, signalpersons, and terminal cleaners. The legislation would expand the coverage to customer assistance personnel, signal system repairers, track cleaners, and supervisors of such personnel, among other additional titles.
Additionally, MTA and TWU leadership announced that a worker safety task force will help identify hot spots around the system where safety and law enforcement resources might best be leveraged moving forward. That task force will help inform how the MTA Police Department deploys some of the 500 new police officers that are set to begin work in the weeks and months ahead months ahead across the MTA, including NYC Transit, the Long Island Rail Road, and Metro-North Railroad.
Bus operators have experienced a surge in violent incidents over the last year, with New York Penal Law assaults up more than 10% and spitting incidents up 35% compared to 2018. To help combat these and other types of attacks, the MTA is continuing to ramp up its aggressive deployment of security cameras. Each bus of the system’s roughly 5,700-vehicle fleet is expected to be equipped with security cameras by the end of the 2020-2024 MTA Capital Plan.
Currently, nearly 4,200 buses — including nearly 90% of local buses — have security cameras onboard. Protective barriers to shield bus operators have also been part of the MTA’s broader strategy to reduce violence against bus operators.