Lawmakers Passed Public Bus Safety Bill

September 22, 2008 7:29:04 PM PDT
Fresno FAX riders be warned. Those behaving badly on the bus will be kicked off - at least for a while. Bus drivers believe they need more protection when it comes to rowdy passengers.Rodney Williams has been driving a FAX bus for 12 years. During that time he's seen his share of trouble-makers. Williams says, "We get all different types of people on the bus. Some people have mental issues, or some people are drunk or other people go off for no reason whatsoever."

State lawmakers recently passed a bill that targets repeat rowdy behavior on public buses. Riders caught doing things like spraying graffiti in or around buses, urinating in public or roughing up drivers can be banned from riding the bus for up to sixty days. More serious offenses could mean a total ban from the bus. The two year pilot program includes Fresno and Sacramento area buses.

Rick Steitz of the bus driver's union says, "What brought it to a head was about a year and a half ago a driver was choked while he was at a stop. The assailant was written a citation and put on the next bus. We found that completely unacceptable. "

Steitz says riding the bus is relatively safe, but because more people are riding public transportation these days, he says drivers have seen an increase in violence. There have been five serious assaults or batteries on Fresno buses in just the last month and a half. The most recent attack was on Van Ness near Courthouse Park. A female bus driver had an argument with a passenger over a transfer ticket. The passenger beat up the driver and got away.

Fresno's assistant city manager Bruce Rudd says it's time to give bus driver's some legal protection. He says, "Right now we really have no way of precluding or keeping anyone from riding a bus ... and if they're a threat to our drivers or to our passengers, we feel we should have the right to say 'no!'"

The Governor is expected to sign the bill. Before it goes into law on the first of January, the city needs to come up with guidelines of how to deal with offenders and come up with a way to identify passengers on a "no ride" list.

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