Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

WMATA Under Scrutiny After 2 Bus Operators Assaulted

Hannah Urtz is a staff writer for The Hoya.

Transit workers and union leaders have heavily criticized the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority bus service following two assaults on drivers in the past two weeks.

A woman was arrested Aug. 30 for throwing a cup of urine at her bus driver in Northeast Washington four days earlier. According to reports from the driver, Opal L. Brown, a 38-year-old passenger, urinated into a cup in the back of the bus and then threw the cup at the driver while disembarking after the driver told her to “have a nice day.”

Brown turned herself in on Aug. 30 and confessed to the attack because she “hates Metro,” according to a Metropolitan Police Department report.

The second incident involved a passenger spitting on a Metrobus operator’s face last Tuesday.

Union leaders and workers spoke out about Metro’s handling of the situation and handling of driver safety concerns. Leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 called for increased security across transit lines, police escorts on the X2 line where the incident occurred and legislation making assaults on transit workers a felony.

“Metro must take accountability for their inaction over the last 10 years and they must develop a permanent solution to this increasingly dangerous problem now. A disgusting act like the one on Saturday can not only endanger the operator, but also endanger everyone on that bus,” ATU Local 689 wrote in a Sept. 1 press release.

Several drivers on the X2 route refused to work after the incident, requesting police escorts on their routes. Their requests were not met, and thus several buses were out of service for several hours on Sept. 1, according to WMATA.

WMATA responded to the union’s criticisms in a statement saying “absolutely no one should be assaulted for doing their job,” but the drivers must return to work.

“We disagree with impacting Metro customers who are simply trying to get to work and school by Metrobus Operators refusing to provide bus service in a disruptive and unlawful job action,” the statement said.

WMATA addressed their ongoing efforts to improve rider and operator safety in a statement. According to the statement, Metro Transit Police has stationed nearly 40 transit police officers throughout the Metrobus system, as well as equipped more than a third of buses with protective shields. It intends to outfit the rest of the fleet as they come from the factory.

The suspect was later arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, according to Metro Transit Police. However, union leaders continue to raise concerns.

“Local 689 believes that if community, management, and workers come together to address this issue, the lives of both transit workers and riders can be protected,” ATU wrote. “Assaults on transit riders and workers put everyone at risk. It is that danger that local 689 members hope to work with management on and work to make a safer transit system for all.”

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