‘Assaults by passengers aren’t stopping’: GoDurham bus drivers demand more action from the city

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – GoDurham bus operators say they are continuing to get assaulted by passengers and they are demanding the city do more to keep them safe. 

Bus operators told Durham City Council that they had been getting assaulted on the job during a work session held on Sept. 23. 

While the city took steps last month to address the problem by putting plexiglass barriers in four of the GoDurham buses, on Thursday afternoon bus operator Tameka Walker said more assaults have happened since then. 

“We’ve had several incidents, just the other day, a bus operator was assaulted on the bus,” Walker said. “A passenger had thrown a beer on her and spit on her.” 

Walker said some of the assaults are linked to the fact that there is a shortage of bus drivers and some of the buses are overcrowded.

“We have overcrowded buses, which leads to angry passengers and that can lead to violence on the bus,” Walker said. 

Kirk Mitchell has been with GoDurham for 22 years, he also spoke before the council as well.

Mitchell said GoDurham is losing employees because many of them have been impacted by COVID and they are running out of sick time. 

“Employees are facing suspension and termination because they exhausted all of their FMLA,” Mitchell said. 

Last month, Sean Egan, City of Durham transportation director said they had taken steps to better protect drivers on the job as they had put plexiglass barriers in four of their 59 buses. In addition, he said eight new buses will also have these barriers. 

But Walker is asking the city to do more than this to protect the drivers. She wants the city to consider shutting the bus service down by 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and by 7 p.m. on Sundays. 

“That would match with the other organizations in our area,” Walker said. “What is it going to take, do we have to have a fallen operator by the hands of an unruly passenger to get your attention? At this point, we have been assaulted, hospitalized and nothing has been done.” 

Mitchell is asking the city for more COVID benefits for GoDurham employees and higher wages. 

Egan was not at the city council work session to address these drivers’ concerns, but Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said the city will look further into these issues.

“We want you to know that we hear you, we want you to be safe, and I know the city manager will take your concerns seriously,” Schewel said. 

CBS 17 called and emailed GoDurham and also reached out to Egan on Thursday to find out how many assaults have been reported on GoDurham buses in the past couple of months and what further action they plan to take. We are still waiting to hear back.

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