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MTA installing bus barriers to protect drivers from violent riders


amny Credit: Getty Images

Following a rash of attacks against bus drivers, the MTA has begun installing shields to protect the workers from violent riders, transit officials told amNewYork.

MTA Chairman Jay Walder said he was “horrified” by last week’s attack on a Bronx driver, precipitated after she had told a 17-year-old girl that she couldn’t board with a dog.

“I’d like to see us do everything we can to ensure the safety of our drivers,” he said after a board meeting Wednesday.

Walder said 464 buses will get protective dividers by December. Five have already been put on buses as part of a pilot program in a Flatbush depot, where bus driver Edwin Thomas who was killed in 2008 by a gang member was based.

But Frank Austin, a union official who oversees bus operations in the Bronx and upper Manhattan, said the MTA is doing too little, too late.

“It should have happened already,” Austin said. “It’s baby steps compared to where we should be right now.”

Austin said dividers should be first installed on bus lines where drivers are more frequently spat on and assaulted.

In addition to the five shields already on buses, the MTA plans to order 100 more in the next few weeks as part of the pilot. Some 360 more will be pre-installed on new buses by the end of the year, the agency said.

Walder said the agency planned to put shields on all 5,584 buses if they prove effective. An MTA spokeswoman said she did not know how much they cost.

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