PSTA Board approves funds for driver safety measures

June 27, 2019
PSTA's capital reserve fund will pay for the project as it works to become among the first transit agencies in the nation to outfit its entire fleet with driver safety barriers.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) Board of Directors has unanimously voted to approve $1.2 million in funding to outfit PSTA's entire fleet of 210 buses with new safety barriers to prevent drivers from attacks. 

“Our bus drivers deserve the right to feel safe at work. These are parents, spouses, grandparents. They want to come in to do their jobs and make it home to their loved ones. Assaults will not be tolerated. We must do all that we can to put a stop to them,” PSTA Board Chair Janet Long said.

The board's vote comes a bit more than a month after Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority bus driver Thomas Dunn was murdered on the job, randomly stabbed by a passenger on May 18. Dunn’s bus did not have a safety partition between himself and the passenger to protect him from the deadly attack. Dunn’s murder prompted local bus drivers to call for more protection. 

PSTA and the Service Employee International Union announced in early June that they had reached an agreement to install the new barriers. PSTA says it is among the first agencies in Florida and the nation to outfit its entire fleet with the new barriers. 

“We took a stand and voiced our concerns, and would like to thank our PSTA leadership for listening to us and taking immediate action to ensure that our drivers are safe and no longer have to live in fear,” said April Murphy, a retired bus driver and representative for the Service Employee International Union.  

Adding safety barriers to protect drivers is a national trend as assaults on drivers become more common. Congressional leaders introduced The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act this year. The bill would require transit agencies to add safety improvements to help reduce the number of assaults. 

“We are standing up as leaders in the transportation industry for doing the right thing and making the priceless investment to keep both drivers and passengers in our care safe. As attacks on bus drivers continue to rise nationally, we are taking action immediately. There is no time to waste, when it comes to protecting our people from harm’s way,” PSTA CEO Brad Miller said.

The barriers are being paid for from PSTA’s capital reserve fund, and will have extended tempered glass to shield drivers from danger. It will take four to six weeks to manufacture the barriers, and crews are expected to begin installation in August, with all PSTA buses upgraded by the end of October.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction 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.