JTA adding retractable shields to protect bus operators

JTA taking steps to protect bus operators

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is adding retractable shields to protect bus operators.

Over the weekend, a bus passenger in Tampa reportedly stabbed an operator to death behind the wheel.

JTA Chief Safety Officer Ivan Mote said the entire public transit industry is shaken up.

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“That’s just the thing that keeps us up at night,” said Mote.

The JTA already has shields inside 28 buses and plans to add more over the next few months.

“A few years ago, we had an uptick in assaults on operators. And what this does is protect them from being assaulted while the bus is moving,” said Mote.

Half the shield protects bus operators’ blind spots at all times.

The second half is retractable and can be deployed for even more protection.

Mote said the safety precaution protects more than just the bus operator and passengers; it protects other drivers on the road.

“Anything that happens that distracts them – assault, unruly passenger – could cause this bus to be out of control and that’s a danger to the public,” said Mote.

Mote said Jacksonville sheriff’s officers increased their randomized hop-on/hop-off surveillance on JTA buses after the Tampa attack.

The JTA posts notices on every bus warning people that it’s a felony to assault a bus operator.

Mote said bus operators get training on how to de-escalate unruly passengers’ behavior.

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He said the JTA also recently upgraded its closed-circuit television network to increase security.

This bill was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate in February.

It would require transit agencies to develop risk reduction programs and report assaults on transit workers to a national transit database.

Seven Florida representatives in the U.S. House, including Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat representing the 5th Congressional District, have co-sponsored the bill.