MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) is testing new shields on some of its buses, aimed at protecting drivers from unruly passengers. It comes at the request of the bus drivers’ union who has asked for them to be installed.
“The bus shields have been in the industry for a while, and at the request of some of our employees, we are expanding our look at bus shields,” said Gary Rosenfeld, MATA CEO.
If you board a MATA bus anytime soon you may see the shield devices providing a barrier between you and the driver. The driver has a handle on the inside that allows them to open their window and door, if need be. The door weighs 75 pounds.
“It provides some prevention of anything being thrown at the bus operator or if somebody is trying to get physical with the bus operator,” Rosenfeld said, “It should eliminate the potential in the vast number of potential incidents.”
MATA records dating back to 2016 show a handful of on-board incidents involving drivers, from two in 2016 to five in 2018. So far in 2019, there have been four incidents. The numbers provided by the agency reference incidents in which a driver has been either slapped, punched, kicked, spit on, or forcibly removed from the driver’s seat.
“We are always concerned about passenger and employee safety on board our buses,” said Rosenfeld.
MATA said the devices cost roughly $5,000 each in hardware with labor for installation coming on top of that. That means it’d take at least $600,000 to outfit 120 fixed-route buses in the fleet.
The two buses equipped with shields will go into service next week. MATA said it will test the project for as long as it takes to make an informed decision on whether the shields are effective.
MATA said shields are also in use in New York City as well as Kansas City, Missouri, and on Greyhound buses.