FLORIDA — Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) officials have announced a symposium to look at transit safety. 

It will include re-visiting a safety measure the agency has considered in the past: driver shields. But how much would installing such partitions cost?

Stephen Berry from the University of South Florida Center for Urban Transportation Research said it depends on what kind of protection HART wants for their bus operators. 

It can run from $2,000 per bus to $5,000 for a more robust driver shield according to Berry, who is Deputy Director of Safety, Security and Operations at the research center.

Pinellas County’s transit authority is already examining the safety issue and implemention of safety measures.

PSTA officials have a prototype of a driver shield in one of their buses and said it would cost about $1 million to outfit their entire fleet.

That’s 248 buses at $4,000 for each unit.

USF's Berry said the shields are needed and are an effective deterrent.

In a Center for Urban Transportation Research study, assaults on riders or operators on public transit went up 160 percent from 2008 to 2017.

Assaults with injuries are up 83 percent, while assaults resulting in a fatality are up 22 percent during the same period. 

Berry stressed while assaults are trending up, bus transit is still one of the safest ways for the public to travel.

HART officials mentioned other big cities that already have this kind of protection. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, for example, the city spent $375,000 to protect 150 buses.