NEW HAVEN, Conn (WTNH) – As you travel around, you might not think about bus safety, but the bus drivers certainly do. Leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union locals from all over Connecticut rallied on the New Haven Green Tuesday morning to demand bus design improvements.
“What we’re asking for is a better workstation for us so that we can be comfortable and we can be safe and the public can be safe,” said Mustafa Salahuddin, President of ATU Local 1336 in Bridgeport.
For one thing, they say left hand turns can be dangerous for pedestrians because drivers have trouble seeing due to the pillar next to the windshield and the side mirror.
“There’s the mirror, here’s the A pillar and that’s the space between the mirror and the A pillar,” said Jerry Pizunski, President of ATU Local 1209 in New London, holding up a photo diagram. “If there are people walking behind, those arrows show where there are people, but you can’t see them.”
The union has formed a legislative council to lobby for changes at the state level. The union also wants seats, pedals and wheels that are ergonomically designed.
“There’s drivers that have back problems,” Salahuddin said. “There’s drivers because of the way the steering wheels are on those buses develop rotator cuff injuries.”
Drivers also say they’re in danger of being attacked. Right now there is nothing separating drivers and their passengers.
“We just had a guy killed in Canada, one of our ATU brothers,” said Veronica Chavers, President of ATU Local 443 in Stamford. “He was murdered by a homeless man. He wanted to get home safe, just like the rest of us out here doing our jobs who want to go home to our families.”
The solution would be clear panels separating drivers from the rest of the bus. It’s something they are trying in Bridgeport.
“We disagree with the union on many, many things, but safety is not one of them, so it’s a place where we’ve found common ground,” explained Greater Bridgeport Transit’s General Manager Doug Holcomb. “We’re doing pilot work on the deployment of driver barriers. 70% of the fleet now has that.”
Most of buses outside of the Bridgeport area do not have those barriers, however. One reason why is that, according to Holcomb, putting them on buses costs close to $5,000 per bus.