Metro Hijacking Raises Questions About Bus Driver Safety

The hijacking of a Metrobus on Tuesday and the assault on its rider raise new questions about the safety of bus drivers and their passengers.

The bus a man armed with needle-nose pliers took control of in Northeast D.C. had no protective shield separating the driver from passengers. All new buses purchased by Metro will be equipped with the shields, Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik previously said.

Fewer than one quarter of Metrobuses were equipped with the shields as of Tuesday, a Metro representative said. Of the 1,542 buses Metro operates, 326 buses have the shields. Another 531 buses will have the safety devices by the end of 2016.

The shields are typically used in areas where drivers have previously had trouble, the Metro representative said.

Rider Alan Korn said putting a barrier between riders and the public seemed like common sense.

"If you can prevent something from happening instead of reacting to it once it does, that sounds like a good idea to me," he said.

The union representing bus drivers said they want more officers to patrol buses.

"This union, representing more than 9,000 of the operators, station managers, clerks and mechanics of Metro, is calling upon Metro to take action and immediately increase police presence," Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 said in a statement. "The lives of transit employees and our riders are depending on it."

Metro deploys officers based on where they see spikes in crime. Attacks on drivers have declined by about 30 percent in the past year, the Metro representative said.

A Metro official not authorized to speak on camera said Metro officials and union officials are working on new safety training and protocols.

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