DETROIT (WWJ) - UPDATE – 2:30PM: Deal Ends Bus Driver Work Stoppage
People who catch the bus in Detroit may be waiting awhile Friday. About 100 Detroit Department of Transportation bus drivers are at work, but are refusing to drive their buses.
WWJ Newsradio 950′s Scott Ryan spoke with Henry Gaffney, spokesman for the D-DOT bus drivers union AFL-CIO Local 26, who said this was not an organized maneuver by the union.
Gaffney said it’s a matter of bus drivers fearing for their safety, citing an incident that happened Thursday afternoon.
“Our drivers are scared, they’re scared for their lives. This has been an ongoing situation about security. I think yesterday kind of just topped it off, when one of my drivers was beat up by some teenagers down in the middle of Rosa Parks and it took the police almost 30 minutes to get there, in downtown Detroit,” said Gaffney.
Speaking live on WWJ, Mayor Dave Bing spokesman Stephen Serkaian said they are working hard to resolve the matter and get drivers back on the road.
“We’re working diligently to work with the union and encouraging the drivers to get back on the buses and get on the street,” said Serkaian.
Gaffney said bus safety is an ongoing problem.
“If it’s to the point where if the driver is not safe on the bus, then the passengers are not safe, then the citizens are not safe. You know, what about them too? We have no security, you can’t get the police, nobody is doing anything to protect us. And I’ve been begging the mayor and the council for two years to do something to help us,” said Gaffney.
But, Serkaian said there are discussions in the city right now to improve bus safety.
“It is a concern. We want to protect drivers and passengers alike. We used to have police presence on the buses. We’re talking about the prospect of perhaps trailing buses with police cars. Nothing has been decided, it’s all in discussion right now,” said Serkaian. “It’s a short-term and a long-term matter… It’s all about money and it’s all about funding, and our transportation system is already stretched to the max.”
WWJ’s Vickie Thomas was at a deserted Rosa Parks Transit Center in downtown Detroit, which is typically booming with passengers and buses alike.
Saharah X. was waiting at the center for 30 minutes before flagging down a cab.
“They just try to find a way not to do their job. And then they got innocent old people, there an old lady on a cane sitting outside over there, that’s dangerous. And she got to walk? Wow. I mean, what is the world coming to? No love, no nothing. Everybody’s just thinking about themselves. Think about other people some,” she said.
Richard Moses, who rides the bus every day, was waiting a bus stop along Woodward Avenue when a D-DOT supervisor rolled up in an SUV and basically told him to find another form of transportation Friday morning.
“They said there’s no D-DOT buses running at this time and they don’t know when any will be starting back up. I just got off work, I work midnights. Luckily, I got dropped off right here or else I would have been sitting on 8 Mile and Woodward, and I’ve got to go all the way to Livernois and Warren,” said Moses.
Serkaian said they’re asking stranded riders who are waiting for the bus to get to school and work to hang on and be patient.
“We understand their frustration, we feel their pain. We simply have to ask folks to be a little bit more patient while we try to resolve this matter,” he said.
Detroit Public Schools has issued a letter to parents informing them of the situation, saying it doesn’t affect DPS yellow buses, which are running normally. They also said DPS Police Dept. personnel will provide additional watch near bus stops where children may be congregated.
A recording on the D-DOT customer service line said the department “sincerely apologizes for extreme delays in service.”