Six days after a Metrobus passenger splashed urine on a bus driver, the agency’s biggest union requested the transit agency increase police presence on that particular line.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 held a press conference Friday at the Minnesota Avenue station in northeast D.C. that bus operators asked for improve safety measures, not only the X2 bus line, but others for at least 10 years.
Saturday’s incident became public when Metro released a video showing Opal Brown, 38, of southeast D.C. tossing a cup of urine before stepping off the bus at Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue. Police said she threw the urine around a protective shield, just before the driver told her to “have a nice day.”
Police arrested Brown Wednesday and charged her with misdemeanor assault. She pleaded not guilty in court Thursday and was released. Police Chief Ronald Pavlik said she isn’t allowed to ride the X2 line again.
On Friday, X2 bus drivers asked their supervisors for a police escort and if a supervisor could ride the bus with them, union president Jackie Jeter said. When supervisors ordered the drivers to operate the bus without any escort and they refused, the drivers got pulled out of service and the X2 line wasn’t operating.
“Me asking for the protection of an operator [and] the protection for the riding public is not a strike. It’s a cry for help,” said Jeter, who added that about seven or eight bus drivers maneuver the X2 line. “I don’t know how much abuse operators have to take before this company that claims they care about the riding public and the employee step up and do something about it. We are not striking. What we are saying is, ‘Enough is enough and we want you to keep us safe.'”
Although Metro management agrees bus drivers and passengers shouldn’t be harmed and enhanced penalties should be incorporated against anyone who assaults an employee, the agency said in a statement the union’s actions are “disruptive and unlawful.”
According to a tweet from Metrobus Info at 10:28 a.m., buses expected up to 20-minute delays “due to an unauthorized labor action.”
The union later responded in a statement: “Screaming ‘unlawful’ every time the workforce exposes the dangers that Metro puts its riders in only magnifies how little Metro is concerned about safety.”
Metro said in the statement about 40 transit police are assigned to Metrobuses. Also, more than a third of the buses have protective shields and all are equipped with digital cameras.
The morning rush hour delays Friday meant riders such as Shirley Fulmore-White of northeast D.C. had to transfer to another bus. Fortunately, the X1 Metrobus headed to her destination.
However, the schedule shows the X1 runs only during morning and afternoon rush hours, compared to longer service in the evening and beyond midnight on the X2.
Fulmore-White, 62, supports the union’s call for an increased police presence on the X2 line.
“The X2 has been [abysmal] for years,” she said. “People have been acting stark raving mad. Need [more police] not only for [bus drivers], but for us, too.”