Some MARTA employees say they don’t feel safe at work after they were assaulted by unruly passengers.
Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston talked to drivers, who said the problems started when bus riders no longer had to pay during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People have been assaulted. They’ve been spit on. They’ve had things thrown at them. They’ve been shoved down,” one driver said.
Channel 2 Action News filed an open records request for police reports to verify what the workers said.
What Huddleston found was not only shocking, but unsettling.
In one report, a man performed a sex act next to a female driver. Another rider spat on a bus operator and another driver was punched. In three months, there were reports of more than 20 assaults.
Drivers who Huddleston spoke to said the actual number of incidents is much higher. One said that MARTA management is not doing enough.
“I don’t know what else to say,” the driver said. “It’s scary, and no, there has been no real-time response. There has been no one to come in and say, ‘Hey guys, we’ve got a plan.’”
The drivers said if they do file a complaint, management doesn’t get back to them to say if the suspect was caught, or if he’s waiting at the next bus stop.
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The drivers Huddleston spoke to said they have no plans to sue MARTA. They just want to be protected.
“You should have listened and helped us,” a driver told Huddleston. “It should never have gotten to this point. None of us ever should have gone through what we went through and what our families had to suffer with what we went through.”
Huddleston spoke with MARTA’s chief of bus 0perations, Collie Greenwood, about the ongoing problem.
“If there is something we can work on, perhaps it’s circling back with the operator and making sure they know what’s going on,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood has been with MARTA for one year. He said that this week, MARTA police officers will ride buses to help with the transition back to paid service. They also have weekly meetings with the CEO where they discuss operator safety.
Huddleston also learned that since our investigation, Greenwood said that MARTA does care about their drivers.
“We do care, and many of us sat in that seat and many of us are sensitive to the concerns the operator has, so please keep those concerns forward,” Greenwood said.
The drivers we spoke to want to believe that, but they say, time will tell. MARTA also sent us the following statement:
"The safety and security of our operators is a top priority for MARTA. Each week, the General Manager and executive team review key data points that indicate the health and functioning of the transit system. Operator assaults is one of 10 data points discussed each week.
The systems in place to protect our operators are premised on a reporting structure that involves their supervisor and the MARTA Police Department so MARTA can take the appropriate steps to catch the offender, file charges, and ban the offender from the system.
Per the collective bargaining agreement with ATU Local 732, all union employees are covered under a felonious assault insurance policy for an amount of $100,000 per employee.
And in instances where negative interaction between riders and operators is a high probability, as in the case this week with the resumption of on-bus fare collection, MARTA deploys police bus marshals. This week, MARTA has uniformed police officers on our top 10 busiest routes from 7am until 10p to provide support to prevent any threatening or violent behavior and offer additional support to the bus operators.
Cox Media Group