Councilwoman Bass: Protecting SEPTA drivers, conductors is a ‘very serious public-safety issue’

At Thursday’s City Council meeting, Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass introduced a resolution in support of a stalled state-senate bill which would add “public transportation employees to the list of protected individuals.”

Senate Bill 236, which is championed by state Sen. Christine Targtaglione, would increase penalties for “attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to any of the officers, agents, employees or other persons.”

Transit employees would join the ranks of firefighters and police officers upon which attacks are automatically considered aggravated assaults. However, the bill has languished in committee since Jan. 2011.

Stories “will shock you”

Bass noted that she was spurred into action upon learning at last week’s SEPTA budget hearings that, in 2011, “there were 46 assaults on SEPTA bus operators, an increase from 20 assaults in 2010, including drivers being cut with razors, punched in the mouth, slapped, spat upon and sexually assaulted.” (PDF)

She said assaults on drivers and conductors put many people at risk and introduced Transport Worker Union Local 234 President John Johnson Jr., who attended Thursday’s council meeting.

“When they’re driving a bus, other lives are in their hands,” she said. “If they’re threatened while driving, attacked while driving, harassed while driving, it’s a very serious public safety issue. We can’t continue to act like it’s not happening.

“I urge you to talk to members of the TWU, to other public-transportation workers, about what they go through. The stories you will hear will shock you. We need to use this as an opportunity to spread the word about this in Harrisburg and in our own communities.”

The resolution will be considered for final passage at the May 3 council meeting.

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