PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — On Wednesday, bus drivers from across the Bay area joined Pinellas County drivers demanding that the PSTA Board fund safety enclosures for drivers on all of their buses.
"If tragedy strikes, it would be on all of us for not demanding safety for every driver," said driver and union representative Rick Smith during the meeting.
The proposal comes after police say a bus driver in Hillsborough County was murdered by a passenger two weeks ago. Now, Pinellas County bus drivers want safety enclosures installed on every single bus.
Board members appeared to be supportive of the drivers' proposal. However, they stressed that making that proposal a reality involved a public process.
"We're a public agency," said PSTA board chair Janet Long. "We deal with public money. There's a process that you have to go through, and it has to be published and it has to be in the public eye."
Long added that drivers' concerns about safety were being taken seriously.
"I do want them to feel safe and I want them more than anything to know that we care, that we're listening," she said.
Last week, PSTA bus drivers participated in a survey asking if they felt the enclosures were necessary to keep them safe on their routes — and 99 percent said yes, according to the bus driver's union president.
"Our drivers have been feeling threatened all this time and every day there's an assault that happens with PSTA whether it's a verbal assault, a physical assault, every day there is an assault that happens," April Murphy, Union Representative, said.
"We have drivers that get spit on, cussed out on a daily basis, verbally assaulted. It would definitely protect the drivers if we had these," said Kevin Sablam, bus driver and Union Rep. "I want then to reach into their pockets and write a check. I mean they need to protect their drivers, they need to make their drivers a priority."
The Union president said the enclosures will cost about $1 million.
If for some reason the board doesn't decide to equip buses with the safey enclosures, Murphy said there could be legal action.
PSTA drivers will join HART drivers on June 3 when they ask their board to retro-fit all that agency's buses with the same driver enclosures.