Bus drivers demand police protection while driving
By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Close to 200 bus drivers and supporters marched in front of the Spirit of Detroit, Oct. 21, demanding police protection while they work, clean and safe buses, and repairs on idled vehicles so that service improves.
“(Emergency Manager Kevyn) Orr spent millions on consultants. We say pay police, give them overtime, whatever it takes. Get them riding the buses,” said Fred Westbrook, president of American Transit Union Local 26.
Now under the second private management company, DDOT drivers say bad service leads to angry passengers who take their rage out on drivers.
“We’ve been shot at, had urine poured on us — assaulted,” Westbrook said.
There aren’t enough working vehicles. Buses can be hours late. On some days — because buses are in disrepair — there can be as many as 20 or 30 drivers sitting around unable to work, according to Westbrook.
Driver Edno Casey said he was shot at just the day before. He explained he was at McGraw and West Grand Blvd., when he pulled around a car blocking the lane. The driver jumped out, apparently angry, Casey said, and shot at the bus as it pulled off.
Bus riders are angry, frustrated and want police protection as well, said rider Cassandra Emerson.
“Everyone in the city knows if you apply for a job and you say you ride the bus, you won’t get the job. They know you won’t be on time.”
Emerson said her daughter had been robbed at bus stop recently. “Women don’t carry purses on the bus, afraid they’ll get robbed,” she said. “Shut the city down. Orr doesn’t care.”
“We are here today to bring awareness,” said Henry Foutner, financial secretary for the local. “We didn’t cause this. Management caused this. Passengers see the driver after waiting two hours, (they’re) delayed; know they’re going to get fired. They take it out on the drivers.”
Driver Robert Dortch III said drivers’ hands are tied. “We are drivers. They tell us we can’t do anything. But, you think I’d let a guy hurt someone?”
Dortch said buses are broken, need repairs, lack parts and yet with the new Regional Transit Authority, $7 million in federal money was taken from DDOT and given to SMART. “That $7million is needed here,” he said.