Straphangers are getting violent.
Attacks on MTA employees have skyrocketed this year on subways and buses by more than 26 percent, according to agency documents.
At least 170 employees were on the receiving end of passenger’s wrath so far this year, up from 134 over the same period last year.
“These people are not just a threat to drivers, they’re a threat to people like myself who are on the train and depend on transit every day,” Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx) said of the attackers during a transit committee meeting Monday.
Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen blamed the spike in crime on last year’s massive service cuts and the feeling of “economic hopelessness” among New Yorkers.
Vincent DeMarino, the MTA’s vice president of security, said one likely cause for the jump in reported violence was increased reporting. He wouldn’t cite other possible factors.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) recommended the MTA ask the NYPD for a “swat team of officers” to target areas where crime is higher.
“Put them in plainclothes,” he said. “You will catch the repeat offenders and you will catch the people causing all these problems.”
Vacca, who heads the transit committee, said he wanted anyone busted beating up a transit worker to get stiffer punishments.
“Those who commit these crimes have to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and I’m not convinced that’s happening,” he said.
MTA officials said they had no idea how many people arrested for the attacks were eventually convicted.
An MTA spokesman acknowledged crimes against the agency’s employees had increased, but said there were 96 this year as opposed to 82 last year, citing only incidents that fell under the legal definition of assault, which doesn’t cover things such as spitting on a bus driver.
Council members also blasted the MTA for its pilot program to try to cut down on trash by removing garbage cans at two stations.
Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan) called the plan “meshugganah,” and Councilman James Sanders (D-Queens) couldn’t hold back from laughing as he asked, “Whose bright idea was it to get rid of garbage cans so we can cut down on garbage?”
Carmen Bianco, senior vice president of subway operations for the MTA, took responsibility for the pilot, and said the agency hasn’t yet seen a noticeable increase in trash at those stations.