City officials get involved with RTA safety

CLEVELAND - The Regional Transit Authority is not a city entity. But the at least three bus driver-involved incidents to happen this week, combined with the viral YouTube assault and uppercut punch, now has city leaders getting involved. 

Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said Friday, "We need to do something about this. This is very, very important. If we see that 72 assaults have happened in five years, you're telling me it's a trend, and we need to stop this trend and we need to deal with it."

Conwell is planning an meeting with the Regional Transit Authority CEO Wednesday to discuss what can be done after a rash of violent incidents involving RTA bus drivers have come to light.

Esteban Mendoza, a passenger waiting for his bus, told NewsChannel5 he's never witnessed an altercation involving a bus driver, but could understand the potential for one. 

"…there's over, I mean, more than 50 people on the bus … and one bus driver that has to put-up with all the people, you know … I could imagine the stress that these bus drivers go through," said Mendoza.

But Councilman Conwell's concern isn't just over safety for the bus drivers. His concern extends to the passengers and general public, who he said Friday, is also put at risk when a driver is assaulted.

Greg Vranekovik, the bus driver punched in the nose Thursday night, said it best when he told reporters, "… people got to understand I'm driving a big machine out there. If my foot comes out the brake, I get knocked out …  that's it. We're going to go rolling."

"Behavior is the definitely the issue," said Councilman Conwell, " … when you look at 72 assaults on bus drivers, then we need to look at the behavior of the passengers to protect the other passengers from harm."

The RTA, Friday, announced some measures being investigated on their own to ensure public safety. One included a text alert system, already purchased, that the RTA said would allow passengers to anonymously send photos and video to Transit Police. Another option being investigated is a plexiglass-type enclosure that would surround the driver.

Conwell said in an interview with NewsChannel5, he is in favor of possible plexiglass enclosures on RTA busses, but still feels behavior is at the route of the problem. 

In preparation for the Wednesday meeting, Conwell said he will be riding RTA busses with Local 268 President, William H. Nix, to speak with riders and find out what safety measures they recommend be taken.

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