‘Cages’ installed in Durham buses after driving incidents
Durham bus drivers are asking security guards to accompany them and patrol the downtown bus station to keep them safe.
GoDurham Access, the city’s transport authority, recorded 100 incidents on board along its 24 routes. Three drivers have been assaulted in the past six months.
The only physical injury sustained by an operator occurred earlier this month and required relief for the driver to seek medical attention.
Driver Tameka Walker, an 11-year GoDurham employee, told city council on Thursday that several drivers had been assaulted in recent weeks.
âWe had no protection on Sunday at Durham station,â Walker said. “Ttwo individuals got out to look for a passenger on Route 3. They told the supervisor on site that they were about to âlight upâ the terminal. They noticed that there were no police here.
She also asked why the bus service had to run until midnight on weekdays and until 9pm on Sundays.
Transportation director Sean Egan said the agency was working on security.
Four of the 59 buses are currently fitted with Plexiglas barriers that the driver can lock from the inside to isolate the driver’s seat from passengers, he said.
The agency has ordered eight more buses with barriers due to arrive this year and is calculating how much it would cost to modernize the rest of the fleet.
When the new buses arrive, some of the older ones will be kept for training purposes and the rest up for auction.
Free bus rides
Pro Mayor Tem Jillian Johnson, who said she and council member Charlie Reece spoke to two drivers last week, said “a lot of these issues” arose after the bus transport was cut off. made free last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
âThere are people who really have nothing to do and get on the buses and just walk around,â she said.
âOne of the unintended consequences of the free buses – which I think is a fabulous political choice and one that we should continue to pursue – is that it has increased the number of people who do not use the buses to go somewhere in particular. “, she added. , “who only use the buses for hanging out, and that also creates more opportunities for conflict.”
Overall, bus ridership remains below pre-pandemic levels. Average weekday ridership is around 14,000 now, up from 20,000 daily trips before the pandemic, according to transportation services.
In response to a question, Egan said the recent incidents are not related to a single factor, such as the application of the mask, “but there is a lot of stress and strain on the community of Durham caused by the pandemic. “.
Operator safety barriers are not enough, another driver told the council.
âToday I was on Route 3 … and a young woman said to me, ‘Why did they put these cages on the buses? Because they’re not stopping anything, âsaid Percival Patterson, a 23-year-old employee.
“We therefore ask that someone from the law enforcement authorities drive these buses with us so that we can be safe,” he said.
Meanwhile, Durham transit continues to need more drivers.
GoDurham has implemented salary incentives and bonuses to improve recruitment and retention. Of the 139 bus operator positions budgeted, about 20% are vacant or unavailable for services, Egan wrote in The News & Observer.
But security remains a concern, Egan told the council, and the agency is working with police in areas where there have been incidents. Drivers also learn about conflict de-escalation during their training, he said.
This story was originally published September 24, 2021 13:18.