Transit worker and rider safety is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Public transit is a safe form of transportation. Transit workers should expect a safe workplace and riders should expect a safe trip.
To help ensure the continued safety of our nation’s public transit systems, the Federal Transit Administration launched the Enhanced Transit Safety and Crime Prevention Initiative to provide information and resources to help transit agencies address and prevent crime on their systems and protect transit workers and riders.
FTA resources can be used by transit agencies to prevent and address crime in their systems and protect transit workers and riders. These resources also can be used for overtime pay for enhanced security personnel presence, mental health and crisis intervention specialists.
FTA has partnered with the National Transit Institute (NTI) to provide training for transit and bus operators on assault awareness and prevention. The
H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that contains provisions important to members of all crafts in the SMART Transportation Division and to sheet metal workers, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a 233-188 vote on July 1.
requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines and to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to transportation workers
“This is an unprecedented step ahead for many of our union’s major issues through the legislative process,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Our concerns were heard and addressed by the writers of this bill — safety for workers and communities alike in the bus and transit operator safety measures and in the crew-size provision, funding for Amtrak, and a number of other provisions intended to rebuild and transform the nation’s roads and rails.
“Federal agencies and big-pocketed lobbyists have tried to obstruct the essential protections that this bill provides to our members and to the people who work on, live near and use our nation’s transportation network. These representatives all had the foresight and initiative to move them forward.”
In the column, Jefferies also argued that legislators were “putting their collective thumbs on the scale” regarding railroad safety in regulating the crew-size safety issue.
The INVEST in America component of the Moving Forward Act was shepherded by House T&I Chairperson Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, through the committee June 18. He commented on July 1 after the bill’s passage:
“Passage of this bold, forward-thinking infrastructure bill is proof that finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision that invests in our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and creates better opportunities for all. And we get there by putting millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity, and innovation,” he said. “With the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes, and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy. I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”
Leaders in the SMART-TD National Legislative Department thanked DeFazio and the bipartisan group of Democrats and a trio of Republicans who supported H.R. 2.
“As if we need any additional evidence that elections matter, this result shows that the 2018 change of party control in the House made a difference,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We appreciate those legislators who supported this legislation in its journey through the House. There is more work to be done and a path to be cleared for this legislation, and our membership is more than willing to put in the time to make legislators understand why the bill provisions are necessary.”
The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is the result of countless hours of work by this Union on the Hill and in the halls of Congress. The INVEST in America Act reauthorizes funding set to expire Sept. 30, but more so, sets standards for safety, training, and transportation reform that have long been sought by the members of SMART Transportation Division including:
Yardmaster Hours of Service
a “Cross Border” fix.
Additionally, Amtrak would see its funding triple to $29 billion over the five-year period of the bill, allowing for expansion of national, state and regional routes and facility modernization. Funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program also would be increased to $7 billion to fund passenger and freight rail projects. Provisions for/or against the transportation of liquid natural gas (LNG) via rail tank cars, blocked railroad crossings, and excessive freight train length, among others, also have been included.
Our National Legislative Office has been hard at work in Washington, D.C., to convey our issues to both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House and Senate, and the provisions within this bill are the fruits of that labor.
Undoubtedly, House Democrats have heard our cries and have answered the call. By including our issues within the context of this bill, they have let America know that the only safe operation of a Class I freight train is with a two-person crew; that our bus drivers and operators have the right to a safe work environment; and that the public should be shielded from the risks that rail carriers will take in the name of greed.
But make no mistake, this bill still has a long road to travel and a lot of heavy-handed opposition standing before it in the Republican-controlled Senate. We will need all hands on deck to protect the provisions we have all fought so hard for to survive that journey.
I am asking you to please watch this bill as it moves through the legislative process and see who and what hurdles it faces. I’m asking you to please pay attention to the party affiliations of the individuals as the yeas and nays are registered when the bill is voted upon. And I am asking you to listen to the rhetoric and testimony that will affect its final appearance. Once the dust has settled, I will call on you to please support those who support you and your family’s well-being, and I firmly believe that picture will be crystal clear.
There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out.
President — Transportation Division
Police told WSOC that the suspect in the Charlotte shooting, T.B. Moss, has a criminal record and was taken into custody soon after the incident by authorities. Police said Moss may have specifically targeted the bus driver. She is expected to recover, according to media reports, but this incident again highlights the need for the implementation of increased safety measures for bus and transit operators as provided by the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act (H.R. 1139 and S. 436) so that our members can come home safely after a day’s work.
SMART Transportation Division leaders support the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act (H.R.1139) introduced by U.S. Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D – Calif.) and Congressman John Katko (R – New York) on Feb. 11 that would make the workplace safer for bus operators and commuter rail workers nationwide.
“While most interactions between SMART TD members and the passengers they serve are peaceful encounters, too often that is not the case,” SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said. “Our members deserve the protections necessary to ensure their safety, health and well-being. This legislation will require transit agencies to develop risk-reduction programs to make bus and transit services safer for TD members, riders and pedestrians alike.”
Incidents of assault on public transit occur in the United States frequently and threaten the safety of SMART TD members, the riding public and pedestrians. Countless news reports involving violent acts by unruly passengers have left SMART TD bus operators and transit employees as victims of violence.
“You name it — our members have encountered it and have had to deal with these gruesome, violent occurrences. Yet we’ve seen little done about it. This legislation fulfills the need for adequate driver shields and mandatory de-escalation training,” said SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch. “Thank you to Representatives Napolitano and Katko for refining this important piece of legislation and for being steady in their continuing commitment to making public transportation safer in the United States.
“Our pledge is to continue to work with Congress and the Administration to ensure transit workers and those who use public transit receive the protection they deserve.”
The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act requires that both rail and bus transit agencies (those not covered by the FRA) create risk-reduction plans to protect operators within two years of the bill’s passage and that the agencies submit those plans to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval.
Some components of these plans could include physical barriers to prevent operator assaults, de-escalation training for workers, driver-assistance technology to reduce accidents, ergonomic improvements to prevent operator injuries and modified specifications or retrofits to reduce visibility impairments for operators.
The bill also requires that any assault on a transit or bus operator be reported to the DOT’s National Transit Database.
“There is no higher priority than operator safety. Too often we’ve seen reports of drivers getting assaulted and having their lives irreversibly changed simply because they were behind the controls doing their jobs,” said Calvin Studivant, SMART TD Bus Department vice president. “The risk-reduction programs and other safety requirements that this bill puts in place will help to keep our members safe.”
The Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act (H.R. 6016), a similar bill introduced by Napolitano and Katko last year, picked up co-sponsors from both parties in the U.S. House and received the endorsement of SMART TD and other transportation unions. U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland introduced a companion bill to the 2018 legislation in the U.S. Senate and is doing the same with H.R. 1139.
The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act continues to build upon these efforts to eliminate bus and transit operator assaults, thus protecting workers, the riding public and pedestrians. It likewise receives SMART TD’s full backing.
In June, Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (D – Calif.) and Congressman John Katko (R — N.Y.) introduced the original bill, H.R.6016, that would enhance the safety of bus drivers nationwide.
“Ensuring a safe work environment for transit operators is crucial to improving our transportation system for both passengers and employees,” Van Hollen said. “This legislation makes a long overdue push to improve safety conditions for these men and women — and invests the resources to make it happen.”
Immediately upon the legislation’s introduction, SMART Transportation Division leaders announced their support for the bill, and they also support Van Hollen’s bill.
“There have been gruesome, inexcusable acts that have been committed on our bus members including shootings, stabbings and beatings, and little has been done about it. We need adequate driver shields and mandatory de-escalation training,” said National Legislative Director John Risch. “Our pledge is to continue to work with Congress and the administration to ensure all bus operators are given the protection they deserve.”
Countless news reports of incidents involving spitting, beatings and stabbings by unruly passengers have left SMART TD bus drivers as victims of frequent violence. A college student critically injured in a stabbing April 9 while he rode on a bus owned by Montebello Bus Lines (MBL), whose workers are represented by Local 1701, died in June of his injury.
“Every day we hear major news stories of bus drivers being beaten, having items thrown at them, spitted upon, and verbally abused. LA Metro, for instance, which operates in my district experiences approximately 130 assaults on bus drivers per year,” Napolitano said in a news release. “This is an unthinkable experience for drivers, and it also has major safety impacts on passengers, motorists and pedestrians, as these assaults often occur while the bus is moving.”
Both the House and Senate legislation require transit agencies to develop Bus Operations Safety Risk Reduction Programs by implementing physical barriers to prevent operator assaults, de-escalation training for bus drivers, driver-assisted technology to reduce accidents and modified bus specifications or retrofits to reduce visibility impairments.
“There is no higher priority than operator safety. On a daily basis, we see reports of drivers getting assaulted and having their lives irreversibly changed because they were behind the controls just doing their jobs,” said SMART TD Bus Department Vice President Calvin Studivant. “This critical legislation will significantly improve bus driver safety through risk reduction programs and other safety requirements.”
The Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act and its Senate companion bill continue to build on SMART TD’s efforts to protect bus drivers and eliminate operator assaults, but the effort of members is needed to get political leaders to support the legislation via the Legislative Action Center.
H.R. 6016 as of July 24 had 36 cosponsors — two Republicans and 34 Democrats. It has been referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
S.3215 has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and co-sponsors are being sought.
Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2018) – SMART Transportation Division leaders announced today their support for the Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act introduced by Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (D – Calif.) and Congressman John Katko (R — New York) that would enhance the safety of bus drivers nationwide.
Incidents of assaults on bus operators occur daily and threaten the safety of both our members and the riding public. Countless news reports of incidents involving spitting, beatings and stabbings by unruly passengers have left SMART-TD bus drivers as victims of frequent violence.
“There have been gruesome, inexcusable acts that have been committed on our bus members including shootings, stabbings and beatings, and little has been done about it. We need adequate driver shields and mandatory de-escalation training,” said National Legislative Director John Risch. “I want to thank Representatives Napolitano and Katko for developing and introducing this important piece of legislation. Our pledge is to continue to work with Congress and the Administration to ensure all bus operators are given the protection they deserve.”
The legislation would require transit agencies to develop Bus Operations Safety Risk Reduction Programs by implementing physical barriers to prevent operator assaults, de-escalation training for bus drivers, driver-assisted technology to reduce accidents, and modified bus specifications or retrofits to reduce visibility impairments.
“There is no higher priority than operator safety. On a daily basis, we see reports of drivers getting assaulted and having their lives irreversibly changed because they were behind the controls just doing their jobs,” said Calvin Studivant, SMART TD Bus Department Vice President. “This critical legislation will significantly improve bus driver safety through risk reduction programs and other safety requirements.”
In 2015 SMART TD supported passage of the FAST Act, which required that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issue rules designed to prevent assaults on transit workers, so far FTA has neither released nor implemented these rules. The Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act continues to build on SMART TD’s efforts to protect bus drivers and eliminate operator assaults.
The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry, including bus operators.
Bus Operators employed by Montebello Bus Lines (MBL) are angry and concerned for their safety after a college student was critically injured during an attack, which occurred Monday, April 9, while riding on one of their buses.
Local 1701 Chairperson Cecilia Lopez told the Montebello City Council at a meeting Wednesday, April 11, that members have been concerned for their safety for awhile and in light of Monday’s stabbing, are demanding that the city, who owns the bus system, make improvements to safety.
“People are crazy out there. Please don’t sweep this under the rug,” Lopez said at the meeting. “What does it take to make sure our employees are safe?”
Lopez has suggested that the city place uniformed officers on every bus. The Montebello police department says that they don’t have the manpower to place an officer on every bus, but that some officers can be placed on buses, especially if more complaints are lodged.
Click here to read more from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
SMART TD Local 1701 represents mechanics and bus operators employed by Montebello Bus Lines.
With a fleet of 66 buses, MBL serves over 8 million passengers a year throughout the communities of Alhambra, Bell Gardens, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Downtown Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, La Mirada, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, South Gate and Whittier.
According to a story by The Spokesman-Review, bus operators employed by the Spokane Transit Authority (STA) in Spokane, Wash., have seen an increase of assaults by riders.
According to the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1015, which represents the STA operators, there’s been seven incidents since December. Bus operators have reported multiple cases of verbal abuse, physical abuse, spitting and threats.
Click here to read more from The Spokesman-Review.
Over the past couple of years, SMART TD has been trying to help bus operators mitigate assaults by providing training at regional meetings on how to de-escalate conflicts. SMART TD has also been lobbying for stricter laws to protect all bus operators from assault.