CLEVELAND -- In the wake of several attacks involving bus drivers, RTA is testing a special plexiglas shield.
"It's a start, we're making progress," said William Nix, Sr., President of Local 268 of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union, which represents some 1,500 RTA drivers and workers.
The union and RTA had been looking for better security for drivers in the wake of a number of recent incidents in which operators had been attacked by passengers. The RTA bus with the shield will be tested in coming days by drivers.
RTA spokeswoman Mary Shaffer told WKYC in addition to evaluating safety, operators will be asked to assess other aspects of the shield, which is in use by some other transit companies across the country.
"If there's any glare from the sun or from headlights," Shaffer listed as some of the things drivers would be asked to check. "If they are still able to have the interaction they need to have with the customers as they're paying their fares."
Nix said his membership has a favorble initial reaction to the shields.
"The shield is a deterrent right now to try to stop any altercation or physical contact that anyone might try to attack one of my bus operators," he said, "and now my bus operators can be more safe."
RTA will also offer enhanced training to drivers to avoid incidents like the one in September in which bus driver Artis Hughes delivered an uppercut punch to a female passenger who had provoked him. Hughes was subsequently fired.
Shaffer said the training would include "talking about taking a situation down a notch, if there's a customer yelling at them. What kind of things can they do to bring that down, to pull over the bus, call transit police."
Other ideas to be tested having undercover officers at bus stops and train stations and on the buses and train cars, and having suburban police officers hop on buses from time to time as a show of security.
"That's the idea," union leader Nix said. "That's really a deterrent to those individuals who would give the bus driver a hard time, out there feeling they can just come in and take over the bus."
RTA will also be coming out with a new app for mobile devices, called iWatchRTA. Passengers will be able to send text, photos, and video directly to RTA security in case of an incident. The app is expected to be unveiled in about two weeks.