TARTA drivers fear recent passenger incidents

Union president: “Three assault style situations last week and one near assault”
TARTA drivers worry about their safety
Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 10:01 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - TARTA bus drivers are asking for enhanced safety help after seeing an increase in unruly passenger incidents.

Several recent incidents have them asking that the code of conduct be enforced.

No one 13abc spoke with can pin down an exact “why” as to increasing violent incidents. It’s probably a combination of things with a combination of fixes to hopefully help.

Veteran TARTA bus drivers say they’re seeing a change in passenger behavior recently and it’s disturbing.

“We had three assault style situations last week and one near assault so it’s not anything we’re used to,” said Carly Allen, President of Local 697.

Allen is not only the president of the TARTA drivers’ union but has driven a bus herself for 16 years. She wants TARTA to increase code of conduct enforcement and deal firmly with unruly riders.

“It’s been a built over the lack of enforcement and once people realize the code isn’t being enforced, then it opens the door to get on the radio because no one’s coming is the kind of sentiment, right, that we’ll take our chances or we’ll get off before TPD comes because there isn’t security available right now,” said Allen.

Allen says enforcement has gone by the wayside during changes in leadership over the past few years.

“In an ideal world a security guard on every bus would be great. Fiscally I don’t know if the agency would be able to pull that off. But at least off duty officers at the transit station during our peak times, weekends,” said Allen.

“In addition to de-escalation training we’re look at any sort of security enhancements that we can make on our buses including security barriers for drivers but also camera systems that we can more quickly identify and collaborate with safety forces,” said Sam Melden, the TARTA Director of External Affairs and Communication.

Melden says security guards on buses are not being discussed but about a dozen buses will soon arrive with plexiglass like barriers around drivers while others will be retro fitted with it but that won’t happen until hopefully sometime in the calendar year.

All TARTA rides are currently free. Some drivers told the I-Team they feel that violence is increasing because riders just come on and off as they please. When the fees return that could be a problem too.

“As we look at fares coming back in august is how can we implement those fares in a safe way for everyone involved,” said Melden.

“My biggest worry is that when we begin collecting the fares that assaults will again rise because if you’re going to beat me up over a mask or an open can of beer, what’s going to stop you when I tap my box and say the fare is a buck and a half,” said Allen.

When someone is unruly or violent the driver is to call dispatch who can either walk the driver through the situation, send a supervisor to de-escalate things or eventually call Toledo Police. The hope is to get an officer there or at least get to the transit hub where hopefully one is working off duty and can intervene.

We are told some riders are now banned because of recent incidents. The key is to spot them if they try to get back on.

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