DETROIT (WWJ) – Claiming eight bus drivers have been attacked and injured by passengers in the past nine months, Detroit Department of Transportation workers are rallying for better service, and safer, cleaner city buses.
Tuesday’s D-DOT march began at Campus Martius and ended at the Spirit of Detroit, where WWJ’s Pat Sweeting spoke with Local 26 Amalgamated Transit Union President Fred Westbook.
“They get on the buses and they’re irate — and they’re taking it out on each other; and they’re taking it out on the bus drivers,” said Westbook. “Something has to be done … They’re going to wait until somebody gets killed because the bus is late or the bus is crowded.”
Westbook said the union wants the city to step up and improve security — which could mean a police presence on board.
Failure to do so, he warns, means drivers will “do what they have to do” to protect themselves.
He says the city can find a way to pay for it.
“Even though the city is receiving funding; even though we have an [emergency manager] who’s in here spending money on everything except this transit system; the citizens, the passengers, are waiting hours for buses when they shouldn’t be,” Westbrook said.
Passengers, too, have expressed safety concerns.
“Sometimes you think that it’s the quietest route,” one rider told WWJ’s Mike Campbell, “but there could be somebody out there just looking for trouble.”
One female bus rider she hasn’t yet had a problem, but doesn’t let her guard down. ”I do [feel safe] at times, but I try to watch myself … and other people,” she said.
Gary Brown, Detroit’s chief operations officer, is planning to meet with police this week to discuss safety on D-DOT buses.
Tuesday’s rally comes after more than one recent incident of violence between a bus driver and passenger reported in the city.
In a video posted to YouTube, a driver is seen fighting with a passenger after the woman’s transfer card reportedly malfunctioned. In 2011, 100 D-DOT bus drivers walked off the job — scared for their lives — after a driver was beaten by a group of teens.