JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Transportation Authority completed a months-long project Thursday to make buses safer for drivers.
The News4Jax I-TEAM recently learned about dozens of attacks on JTA bus drivers. Records obtained by News4Jax uncovered drivers being spit on, punched and held at gun point.
To help protect drivers, JTA installed protective barriers on their fleet of buses.
The move means every bus operator with JTA will have a clear, protective shield around their driver seat. The project began in March.
“While most of our customers are pleasant, unfortunately every interaction is not friendly,” said Lisa Darnell, JTA Vice President. “As highlighted in a recent news report, some of those interactions can be violent, placing some operators and their customers in a potentially dangerous situation.”
A News4Jax investigation in October found dozens of reported attacks on JTA bus operators since 2014 including at least four times a gun was pulled on the bus.
JTA reports show multiple drivers being spit on and some being punched. In 2018, a report shows a female driver was spit on and had a knife put to her throat.
In Daniel Spivey’s case, arrest reports allege a passenger urinated in his cup while he was in the bathroom. That passenger was arrested and booked on charges he tried to poison Spivey.
“It’s gross, yeah, it is. I don’t know. It changed my life and my perspective on my job, for sure,” Spivey said. “It’s affected me ever since. I have been in counseling. Just why would someone even do that to another person? It served no purpose.”
Since the News4Jax report in October, JTA records show another driver was hit on the head by a passenger.
A JTA spokesperson said one of the customers tried to assault him from the back, but because the shield was up, he could not. He did make contact with the operator when he came around to the front. The suspect was later found by JSO and arrested.
The Amagulated Transit Union representing many drivers said it wants to see more changes, like stiffer penalties for people who assault drivers.
The union president said the union introduced new legislation to the U.S. House of Representatives — the Transit Worker And Pedestrian Act.
The bill requires grant recipients under the Public Transportation Safety Program who operate a fixed route bus service to develop a risk reduction program for bus operations to improve safety by reducing the number and rates of accidents, injuries, assaults on bus operators and fatalities – submit the program to the Department of Transportation for approval.