CLEVELAND - Cleveland City Council will introduce a bill that deals with penalties for misconduct on RTA buses, as RTA requests $2 million from the board of trustees for cameras to be installed on all buses.
The move was prompted by the viral bus attack involving a woman and Cleveland bus driver Artis Hughes.
On Monday, Cleveland city councilman Kevin Conwell will introduce an amendment to the misconduct involving a public transportation system ordinance. It already includes school bus drivers and crossing guards, but if passed, will include the Regional Transit Authority worker, driver or operator.
Conwell said he was asked by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 268 to try and push the legislation through to protect RTA workers.
"The party atmosphere which I believe caused the episode with Artis Hughes and the female."
Hughes was videotaped on a cellphone uppercutting a woman on his bus who he said became unruly and spit on him. The video went viral and was seen around the country.
Hughes was later fired after the incident.
"Riding the bus we need to change the culture. [Bus drivers] need to be protected. They want to know that the city has their back," said Conwell.
In a nutshell, the amendment includes no one being able to play music without headphones, no eating and drinking, you can't spit on someone, and it makes it unlawful to strike a driver or public transit system police officer.
"Last month, RTA met with city council and asked them to increase these penalties. And now the city council is moving on our request and we are very pleased with that," said Jerry Masek, a spokesman for RTA.
RTA plans to ask its board of trustees Tuesday for more than $2 million to install cameras on all city buses, except ones they plan to retire.
As part of their new safety committee, they will have transit workers going undercover to insure the safety of passengers.
"The gentleman next to you in blue jeans and a t-shirt could well be an RTA police officer," Masek said.
"Bus drivers didn't just start getting abused out there and getting attacked. This has been ongoing for many years," said William Nix, president of the RTA, who's pleased with the amendment being introduced by Conwell.
Nix said none of these changes would be happening if not for Artis Hughes who he feels should not have been fired.
"The attack on him opened the doors for these things to happen. We should have had something in place," he feels.
Nix, along with members, plan to be at city council when Conwell introduces the amendment. Nix has also contacted state legislators who are crafting similar bills statewide.
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