As transit rank-and-file go, few workers are more vulnerable than bus drivers. For years, they sat behind the wheel with no protection between them and their passengers as New Yorkers of all stripes filed past. They weren’t asked to actively put themselves at risk, but to fare jumpers, disrespectful riders and those looking to do more damage, bus drivers were sitting ducks.
A few years ago, the MTA, under pressure from its unions, started installing partitions, and many — but not all — buses now afford their drivers some protection. Plans include an aggressive roll-out of partitions in the future, and with BusTime and the technology upgrades, the MTA is primed to protect its drivers and respond quickly to emergencies. You would think the New York State Senate would appreciate — or at least know of — these efforts, but instead, they’ve taken an interesting approach.
Earlier this week, the New York State Senate passed a bill requiring that the MTA install partitions in every busy by 2019 and ensure that all buses have a GPS system that can synchronize with alarm by 2016. The bill, which you can read right here, now awaits Assembly action, but it is an amazing example of shutting the barn door after the horse escapes. The State Senate has, in effect, ordered the MTA to do something that, with regards to GPS, it has already accomplished and, with regards to partitions, it is well on its way toward wrapping up.
Now you can accuse me of skepticism; I am, after all, no fan of the way Albany treats transit. Plus, this legislation, if it passes the Assembly and earns Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature, could protect future bus drivers as well. But to me, this is indicative of the way Albany reacts to transit. That is, they don’t. They latch onto something the MTA is doing on its own, mandate that it happen, and then try to take credit for the solution. Instead of examining the city’s traffic issues, transit’s funding problems or future growth, State Senators are content to put a good face on nothing. What a shame.