“We currently have 679 buses in service with barriers,” said Kevin Ortiz, a spokesperson with the MTA. “We should be close to 1,000 buses equipped with partitions by the end of the year.”
In roughly one year, the MTA plans on installing these partitions in around 2,300 buses out of a fleet of 5,600.
The partitions cost anywhere between $1,500 and $3,800 ,depending on the model and design. These new barriers will partially enclose the driver, making a physical attack much more difficult. The partitions will not be bulletproof, however.
A bus driver was attacked in September in the Bronx, when a rider refused to pay his fair.
“Any attack on a bus operator is an attack on all of us at the MTA,” said Ortiz. “We continue to work closely with the NYPD and the five district attorneys to emphasize how attackers must be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extend possible..”
Ortiz also highlighted other programs to protect drivers, as well as passengers. “We are doubling the number of members of our Eagle Teams, which pursue fare evaders on buses and also serve as a deterrent,” he said.
At a press conference announcing the new partitions at the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot in Sunset Park last week, State Senator Eric Adams lined up with TWU Local 100 leadership to voice his support of the project and desire to have the partitions installed sooner.
“The role of the driver is not only to protect him or herself, but the thousands of people on the bus everyday,” Adams said.
Adams said that bus drivers are receiving little help from outside agencies after being assaulted, and that after speaking to drivers there is a consensus that the NYPD is reluctant to actually report the incident as assault.
With only 679 bus partitions currently installed, TWU Local 100 leadership openly criticized the MTA for not making the effort to fully implement the project sooner.
“It is unacceptable that as of October 18, there have only been 679 patricians installed,” said union President John Samuelson. “The MTA is responsible for providing a safe work environment for our members, who are subject to physical assault, spitting, menacing, harassment, and more as they carry out their duty to the riding public.”