JTA completes project to retrofit all its buses with protective barriers

Nov. 19, 2019
The added layer of safety was implemented with input from the authority’s bus operators.

Every Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) bus operator on every bus will have an extra layer of security following the installation of protective barriers on JTA’s fleet of 187 fixed-route buses.  

“The safety and security of our customers and our employees is our top priority at the JTA,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr. “That’s why we work so closely with law enforcement and why we proactively invest in safety measures like these new shields.”

The work to retrofit the entire fleet was completed on Nov. 14 with the installation of the final barrier by JTA mechanics. The move to install the barriers was pursued by Ford following national and local trends showing an increase in assaults on bus operators and feedback from JTA bus operators. The JTA Board of Directors approved $600,000 in funding to purchase the shields and new buses ordered by JTA will have the safety devices in place upon delivery.

A year-long pilot program launched in 2018 by JTA leadership and input from bus operators determined which shield should be adopted. The final selection is a clear, retractable shield that covers the bus operator’s right side, which faces boarding or departing customers. Each shield can be locked in place in a matter of seconds, should the operator feel the need.

“We now have a shield that, when closed, protects their blindside from any potential attack,” said JTA Vice President of Transit Operations and Chief Transit Officer Lisa Darnall.

“That flexibility empowers our operators to be proactive about their safety, without cutting off the valuable connection to their customers,” said Darnall.

Assaulting a transit official who is performing their duties is a felony in the state of Florida and JTA says it works proactively with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to locate and apprehend individuals who physically assault JTA employees. The authority also works with the Office of the State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit as they investigate and prosecute criminal behavior.

JTA has seen a 34 percent increase in its safety investment since 2015 and the barriers are one example. JTA facilities have seen an overhaul of their closed-circuit television systems, a safety officer and safety analyst were also added. Real time situations can be pinpointed following upgrades to JTA’s on-board video and audio systems.

JTA safety officers are TSI-Certified and are present at transit facilities along with local law enforcement. The authority regularly conducts safety exercises in conjunction with law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Transportation Safety Administration.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.